Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel Tinkers was an astonishing gem, capturing in crystalline images George Washington Crosby’s memories, hallucinations, and realizations as he lay dying. I had hoped for an equally remarkable experience from Harding’s second novel, Enon.
Enon opens with Charlie Crosby (George Crosby’s grandson) suffering a shattering loss: “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 thereafter.” We then follow Charlie as he spirals downward, his thoughts, observations, and reflections open to us. There is no question that, as the jacket flap asserts, Harding is “one of the most gifted and profound writers of his generation,” and he conveys Charlie’s self-destructive grief and his feelings about his hometown and beloved daughter with often brutal and sometimes beautiful precision. There is no question that he gets inside his character’s head. But I was disappointed. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t read Tinkers, first. While Harding’s dazzling skills are on display throughout Enon, it fails to match Tinkers’s transcendence.