Enon is Paul Harding’s follow-up to his debut book, Tinkers which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I read and enjoyed Tinkers. Charlie Crosby who is the main character in Enon is the grandson of George Crosby from Tinkers. In Enon, Harding pulls no punches from the start.
A portion of the book’s opening paragraph reads, “My only child, Kate, was struck and killed by a car while riding her bicycle home from the beach one afternoon in September, a year ago. She was thirteen. My wife, Susan and I separated soon afterward.”
From the start you know that this is not going to be a light romantic comedy. It is a study of a man’s grief over the loss of his lodestar. Charlie isn’t overly skilled or ambitious, but he’s a doting father who delights in sharing all the secrets of his small New England town of Enon with Kate. When Susan leaves shortly after Kate’s death, Charlie has the run of their now empty house and is overwhelmed by his grief. He quickly spirals into an ever increasing dependency on pain pills and alcohol to make it through the day. He wanders through the village at night. He often sits in the cemetery where Kate is buried conjuring up ever more phantasmagorical stories about the graveyard’s inhabitants and different elements of life in Enon. As Charlie falls deeper into drug dependence, the illusions become more elaborate. He’s on a pilgrimage to try to catch one last glimpse of Kate; to have a chance to say good-bye.
The prose in this book is exquisite. It’s illustrative and elegant, but often overly long or elaborate. As Charlie loses his grip on reality the descriptive paragraphs can be as long as a page. It’s hard to take a breath and savor the writing as the scenes bounce from one outlandish thought or action to another. It’s not unlike what I imagine a drug addict might actually be thinking, but at times it becomes a bit much.
Tinkers was a spare book where ideas had time to develop and the reader had time contemplate. I think that if Enon had been edited more mercilessly then I would have been more spellbound by the scenes conjured up in Charlie’s mind. As it was the scenes became more outlandish, the book lost some of its power for me.
I give this book a solid three stars. The subject matter isn’t light. Charlie’s grief is palpable and sometimes even maudlin, which seems appropriate given his situation. The writing is arresting. I just wish that in the last third of the book more emphasis was placed on the story line, and less time was spent on describing flights of fancy. The real power in the book was Charlie’s relationship with Kate, and his grief over her loss, not overly long descriptions, albeit beautiful descriptions, of unconnected random thoughts.
Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.