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Hailed as a masterpiece Tinkers Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning debut is a modern classic Here in Enon Harding follows a year in the life of Charlie Crosby as he tries to come to terms with a shattering personal tragedy Grandson of George Crosby the protagonist of Tinkers Charlie inhabits the same dynamic landscape of New England its seasons mirroring his turbulent emotional odyssey Along the way Charlie’s encounters are brought to life by his wit his insights into history and his yearning to understand the big uestions A stunning mosaic of human experience Enon affirms Paul Harding as one of the most gifted and profound writers of his generation

10 thoughts on “Enon

  1. says:

    It is an ominous sign when your trusted steady flow of empathy tapers off into a reluctant drip while you were making your way around the misfortunes encountered by a fictional parent rendered newly childless Are you being too coldly practical perhaps mentally asking this grief addled father to pick up the pieces of his heart and kickstart his life like a pre programmed cyborg? Is your work tired brain refusing to let you feel an intense pity for this man who resorts to tripping himself up on drugs to have a daily hallucinogenic rendezvous with his dead daughter?I dearly wish I could nip such nagging doubts in the bud by answering all these uestions with a 'no' But I can't My feelings for this book are as vague as the state of the protagonist's chaotic inner world post his daughter's demiseThe themes of trauma and tragedy permeate literature of any merit right down to its bones ever so often that it's hard to come by a new treatment of the same old soul crushing sadness While some authors add an outer gloss of dignity and self restraint to their psychologically broken characters others deftly interweave unforeseen outwardly manifestations of repressed grief with the ennui of carrying on with the daily routine And this is where Paul Harding does things differently He kills Charlie Crosby's carefully organized world in an instant shoving him right down the gaping hole of nothing Charlie has no story to tell any no purpose left in life except giving us prolonged glimpses of the tendrils of darkness that coil around his waking moments threatening to choke him to death He only pulls us along for this turbulent ride as he traverses the distance between the edge of utter madness and a saner place between losing himself in the futility of preserving any and every remnant of his daughter's short lived earthly presence and finding his footing in the treacherous bog of loss And this is fine really But what is his justification for pushing away his co mourner his wife? There's only a thin line of difference between grieving for a loved one and internalizing that grief to the point where you begin using it as an anchor keeping you tethered to the reality that was stolen from you to the extent the sadness which was gnawing away at your insides bit by bit became so fattened on your weaknesses that it pushed out every other thing from your head to make space for itself And Charlie treads on this thin line barely holding on to his balance often crossing over into the territory of no man's land I could not stop myself from stepping over the same dark threshold night after night trying to follow her into the country of the dead in order to fetch her back even though she visited me in dreams and never left my waking thoughts I do not claim a kinship with most kinds of life threatening sadnesses especially a grief so fatal as the one entailing the loss of a child not yet anyway But I have lost a parent at 14 So I hope Paul Harding forgives me for judging Charlie Crosby the way I didMaybe I have never felt important enough to accord my grief a higher place over all the other terrifying griefs many of them unknown to me which befall fellow humans and compete for priority every second in this mystifying drama of life Maybe it's a personal foible to revere the ones who carry the ineffaceable marks of psychological damage yet muster the courage to wake up every morning and put in their share of effort to keep the world's engines running Maybe it's a puerile thing to care for tortured emotionally scarred righteous heroes like Rust Cohle who find an all encompassing nihilism to be the answer to the inherent unfairness of life yet battle with that nihilism every moment with hope Whatever the actual reasons maybe I could not sympathize enough with this hapless father's 'magical realist' tendencies to keep his daughter frozen in the amber of his dope induced daydreams Even Harding's thoughtfully wrought ornate sentences chronicling Charlie's memories of the small rural town of Enon which witnessed the birth and death of his daughter couldn't help me establish that intense emotional connection I was expecting to form with this story without a story In some of the narrative's most lucid yet hazy moments during the course of Charlie's scarily accurate depiction of despair in its rawest form the terror of waking up from a nightmare where your loved one was constantly slipping away from your grasp I came close to developing a sense of solidarity with his pain But then these moments of sporadic brilliance were interspersed with numerous other iterations of similarly themed moments which gave rise to nothing other than indifference in meOn occasions like these I wish I could align my reviewing methods with Jan Maat Fionnuala and Steve's who never rate books but simply move on after recording their experiences with it Because how do you rate a grief stricken father's lament?This is why I am trying to believe that the noticeable absence of 2 stars will only underscore my apathy for infinite extrapolations of the aftermath of tragedy paraphrased again and again until the reader becomes too jaded to care and not my disregard for mourning as the key resonant theme Because the latter assumption couldn't be further from the truth

  2. says:

    I was blown away by this masterful plumbing of the purgatory of despair A housepainter in a rural town in Massachusetts loses his 13 year old daughter Kate to a car accident while she was biking His wife leaves to visit her family and never comes back Charlie Crosby slowly works his way through his own version of the stages of grief which felt to me like a timeless heroic uest to solve the riddle of lifeWhy would anyone want to accompany this man in this painful journey I would have to answer that the loss of a loved one is universal and that if we are going to keep flying without our wings melting we could benefit from Harding’s attempt to express an algebra to make sense of it all The immolation of emotion brings forth an incandescent language to temper the blade of Charlie’s soul At no point in his experience portrayed did I feel he engaged in what is often negatively labeled as “wallowing in self pity” Most people are aware that the stages of grief have been analyzed and mapped by Kubler Ross I think there is a bit of distancing from the illusory comfort of this science I find myself standing back a bit from someone who has experienced such a loss looking for their progress through these phases denial anger bargaining depression acceptance We think we understand when they seem to get stuck awhile on one stage and hope we can nudge them along toward the healing ualities of the endpoint But we can never directly experience what they are feeling That’s what family is for those fellow humans that are closer to the furnace and who get singed in the process But as is common in real life Charlie’s passage doesn’t conform to neat stages and his journey is taken aloneHarding’s scenario dispenses with a drama that includes a significant role of support from family or close friends We can only wonder why Charlie’s wife disappeared on him For many people children can be the glue that holds a weak marriage together and they often contribute to friends receding in importance Other books focus on the strain placed upon the grieving person’s circle of friends and family Jane Hamilton’s “The Map of the World” and Chris Bohjalian’s “Buffalo Soldiers” explored those themes well This book has the hero go it alone and in that way it has in common with the Didion’s memoir “A Year of Magical Thinking”Charlie’s “stages” are all over the map and cycle and shuffle among rage devotional reliving of memories of Kate the shame of being so helpless or “failure of character” escape through alcohol and drugs extreme depersonalization and interludes of madness The expression of his love and despair were exuisitely beautiful They capture life in a way not possible without having your back to the wall For example wandering alone in the graveyard at night Charlie begins to feel he is already in the dead past like the Puritans who settled his town in the 1600s The house fell dark It went cold Rats ate the apples in the basket and the wheat in the sack The house became a dark box of wood in a dark clearing and it was best to look at it from the dark trees Raising the house had been audacious and the blessings it had meant to preserve—to hoard it seemed in retrospect—had not simply vanished but was blighted as if inside it did not contain a hearth and a chair and a bed but my cankered heart Or I carried the blackened house inside myself instead of a heart The idea of entering the house and walking over the dark threshold and sitting in the dark room on a dark chair by the dark hearth and looking through a window with broken panes back out at the perimeter of dark trees seemed like damnationBut like a line from Leonard Cohen that “even damnation was poisoned by rainbows” the algebra of grief puts it down as proportional to the love of the lost one on the other side of the euation They don’t erase each other Wasn’t the joy of those thirteen years its own realm encased now in sorrow but not breached by it? That is what I told myself The joy of those years had its own integrity and Kate existed within thatAnd the math gets undermined I had to attempt to fold hope H into the emotional tectonics too as subtle and rare as the particle it was because even if at any given coordinate its value was statistically eual to zero even if at any given moment it was no than the return of hope a single grain of it still contradicts a universe of despair As he conjures Kate in his eerie fantasies as here when simulating fishing in his yard at night he demonstrate a marvelous creative force of the mind in loss Light rimmed up against the horizon behind me and sparkled inside the dark mist As I beat at the fog submerged yard and the line sizzled and rolled above my head and when I mistimed a cast the fly snapped like the frayed end of a whip and I turned a few degrees at a time on the stump presenting the fly along the circumference of the yard and the light slowly rose up into the world and I could see the large dark roots of the trunk radiating out from below in every direction it seemed for a moment that I was standing on the hub of a great spoked wheel suspended in a cloud and spinning at breathtaking speed and that the force of my centrifugal casts and centripetal retrievals acting on its axis might just create some kind of torsion where for a fraction of an instant I might find myself standing next to my daughter in a wooden rowboat at dawnThe relatively short book is full of such internal monologues of thought and tortured imagination The rare human communications and exchanges stand out like the force of gravity after drifting in space The sense of connectedness to this fictional New England town of Enon is a significant force on Charlie as well including the human values of self reliance and of seeing life as a gift I loved to experience his memories of growing up here and of his grandfather the clock maker of Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Tinkers” Even without much of a plot the fate of Charlie’s struggle was plenty compelling for meThis book was provided as an advanced copy by Netgalley and was published Sept 10 2013

  3. says:

    I made an enormous tactical error in reading reviews by other people on this site prior to writing this one because I am confronted here by people who didn't like this book because they wanted something to happen because it's too inward looking because it's very confusingWell if you are looking for a short novel in which things happen in which the central character isn't too inward looking and which isn't confusing then you should pass this book by and continue your search elsewhere There are after all millions of other books out there and coming by the dayBut if you want a steady handed exploration of profound and heart wrenching grief written by someone who has thought through details of suffering and heartache unlike anyone before now if you are looking for writing that will move you and make you think about the fragility of our lives and how each and every day we spend with the people we love is a treasure beyond price then I can safely recommend this book to youIt is clearly not for everyone though so be advised

  4. says:

    I didn't do it on purpose but having read Julian Barnes' Levels of Life right before this it was as if I had a primer on grief as background for this novel Enon also reinforced the idea I had from the Julian Barnes book about the use of metaphors as perhaps the only way to describe feelings and emotionsHarding's descriptions of what his first person narrator sees go beyond the norm His character sees into the very core of things and there are uite a few objects that are symbolic of this When he sees into the past of his town I was reminded of Erpenbeck's VisitationAs expected of the writer of Tinkers the writing is extraordinary Though the prose is straightforward here than with his first novel there are still long lovely lyrical sentences especially past page 80 or so His imagined scenarios are breathtaking Some of the surreal passages reminded me believe it or not of Neil Gaiman; and I imagined Mr Gaiman's reading this novel thinking ah yes and understanding completelyFinishing this book has made me want to reread Tinkers

  5. says:

    Charlie Crosby was walking in the woods when his adored daughter Kate was hit by a car and killed while bicycling home from the beach In short order he suffers an additional loss and Charlie descends into a year long alcohol and drug fueled stupor of grief and anguish“I was always restless and ill at ease running too hot But Kate gave my life joy I loved her totally and while I loved her the world was love Once she was gone the world seemed to prove nothing than ruins and the smoldering dreams of monsters”That's it Not much happens in this novel No likable characters Not many characters at all except Kate who appears in flashbacks and in Charlie's increasingly bizarre hallucinations and Enon the small New England town where Charlie grew up and to which he is attached as he has been to little else except his daughter Charlie wanders the meadows and hills around Enon spends time at his daughter's grave and makes occasional forays out to buy or steal drugs With the exception of the lasagna bearing woman whose car hit Kate and who is uickly driven off no friend or neighbor in this little town looks in on Charlie or makes any attempt to help him“Enon” is not a conventional novel about overcoming grief with a little help from one's friends It is a searing unsparing portrait of one man's despair verging on madness For the duration of the novel we are trapped with Charlie inside his head unable to come to grips with his loss and desolation Abandon hope all ye who pick up this book It's pretty grim stuff but also uite beautiful and hard to put downPaul Harding writes with great assurance He steps right up to the brink of florid and overwrought just as he did in the Pulitzer winning “Tinkers” I tend to be impatient with lengthy description of the natural world and with fever dreams but I never rolled my eyes reading “Tinkers” and “Enon” There are finely crafted narrative bits including one in which Charlie as a boy accompanies his grandfather George Crosby of “Tinkers” on a house call to an ailing grandfather clock and becomes transfixed by an orrery; and there are several lovely recollections of very ordinary interactions between Charlie and Kate The resolution although a bit rushed is uite moving and satisfying as the world around him that Charlie has obliterated for a year touches him at last Lots of people won't like this book Some will find it depressing some will bemoan the lack of plot some will find the prose over the top and dismiss it as pretentious drivel Others will praise it to the skies or admire but not love it That should make for some good discussions and comment threads I might as well stake out my position I admired it and liked it a lot

  6. says:

    What does a man do when the sun goes out of his life when personal loss undoes his world and his self? He is literally thrown out of his normal existence by grief living in a demi monde of past and present history and pre history fact and fairy tale wishes and lies Charlie Crosby lives that horror in the pages of Enon and Enon is the New England village where Crosbys have lived for two centuries while the area itself has a four hundred year history of settlement And Charlie ruminates on so much of this in his despair his anger his wistfulness his dreaming his virtual fever dreamThis is both a beautiful and difficult book There are scenes that made me gasp at their beauty and others that were so huge and convoluted and spectacularly weird that I wasn't sure I was reading them correctly But that was the despairing mind inventing a tolerable worldThere are links to the world of Tinkers throughout this story both through Charlie and the ongoing subject of time and clocks The yard seemed timeless and it struck me that the wind moving the trees and the grass and the clouds was what usually gave the sense that time was still moving that the world was still moving that the wind was a mechanism something like a clock Or the trees and the clouds were the clock and the wind the power released from some immense solar springs uncoiling in space I thought my grandfather might have liked the idea of a clock made of clouds and wind p 230At times I grew slightly impatient with Harding's vocabulary filled with words I've never encountered before Silly me I should use this as a learning experience as I did when I was younger Otherwise I did like this book very much It is not a book to be enjoyed; it is too full of despair for joy But it is a book to be highly appreciated for the way it captures an experience many of us will have but hopefully not in this formRecommended

  7. says:

    This novelEnon written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Harding is tragic in the purest sense of the word; but out of tragedy often comes redemption and that is truly the case with this story Charlie Crosby is a man who seems to try hard in life but never seems to really get anywhere After dropping out of college Charlie returned to his hometown of Enon a small New England town Charlie marries Susan a girl from Minnesota whom he met while attending college and they have a daughter named Kate You get the sense from the very beginning that Charlie is completely in awe of and in love with his daughter She seems to represent to Charlie the one thing in his life that he got rightCharlie set out from the very beginning of Kate's life to instill in her a sense of the history of their town and their own personal family history The two went on long walks exploring the town rode bicycles and when Charlie had insomnia Kate would often sit up with him watching Red Sox games late into the night The summer before Kate was to begin high school tragedy struck and Kate was killed This story Charlie's story and in many ways Kate's story is one that explores the depths of Charlie's grief and despair and ultimately how he managed to pull himself out of those depths and find some peace of mind and acceptanceThis is a very difficult story to read if you like me tend to lose yourself in the emotions of the characters of the books you read You as a reader become a close up spectator to the complete unraveling of Charlie's life after Kate's death As soon as the funeral was over Charlie became so distraught and overcome by his grief that he could not function in any capacity he could not sleep eat or go to work He drank heavily and took prescription pills to try to find a few hours of oblivion and freedom from his overwhelming pain Susan went back to Minnesota to stay with her family and never returned Charlie continued on the course he was on not eating or bathing ; becoming addicted to the pills and even attempting to steal pills from an old man who was recovering from a surgery Although this story was terribly bleak I loved Mr Harding's exuisite language His choice of words made Charlie's grief and despair a palpable thing Each time I picked up the book to read Charlie's grief felt like a physical presence wrapping me in his utter despair Ultimately Charlie reached the very bottom of that despair a failed suicide attempt reminiscent of Virginia Woolf that left him full of disgust and self loathing Thinking about his failure at even taking his own life he recalled words his grandfather had said whether or not I believed in religion or God or any kind of meaning or purpose to our lives I should always think of of my life as a gift At that thought Charlie realized that the way he had been living had been dishonoring his daughter's life but in his bitterness and grief he thought but it's a curse a condemnation like an act of provocation to have been aroused from not being to have been conjured up from a clot of dirt and hay and lit on fire and sent scrambling among the rocks and bones of this ruthless earth to weep and worry and wreak havoc or make daughters and elaborately rejoice in them so that when they are cut down even despair can be wrung from our hearts which prove only to have been made for the purpose of being broken And worse still because broken hearts continue beatingIn Enon Charlie Crosby received the worst possible news a parent can get; and Mr Harding wrote probably the most realistic and honest description of what that grief looks like and feels like But he also wrote beautifully of the resilience of the human spirit which allowed Charlie Crosby when he reached the depths of his despair to find within himself a spark of hope realizing that in allowing himself to be overcome with his grief he was dishonoring his daughter He chose instead to focus on and remember the absolute joy he experienced by her much too short lifeWell done Mr Harding

  8. says:

    This is a tough book to recommend though it could very well be the best book of the year I think this is a better book than Tinkers and that Paul Harding deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize again for EnonThis book will gut you take you into some very dark and terrifying places At its core this it a book about grief unraveling a man to the point of near madness At the same time this book will dazzle you with exuisite pure imagery and language and it will crack open your heart to acknowledge the frailty of the human condition Steeped in nature and the lore of a New England village Enon is about being born into a place dying in a place the unstoppable flow of history and the blessings that enter our lives and fly away from us with no notice

  9. says:

    Elegant Devastation Most men in my family make widows of their wives and orphans of their children I am the exception 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 An elegant and devastating opening As prelude to the account of a man almost throwing away his life out of grief for his dead daughter it is magnificent But I have two problems with the book that follows The devastation is sordid and unbearable And the incongruous elegance with which it is described only makes matters worseAs you would expect from his Pulitzer Prizewinning debut novel Tinkers Paul Harding writes beautifully here too He writes exuisitely poetically with conscious craft But is that necessarily a good thing? The description of the day his daughter died reads like the kind of prose poem a high school teacher would praise but a good editor would surely excise In a dozen lines we get milkweed and goldenrod silver and purple rain clouds dragonflies lifting off the meadow bumblebees at work on the fading wildflowers and chickadees weaving around one another in the air Is this some reverse pathetic fallacy to set off tragedy with futile irony?There is a piece of uite effective irony though a few pages later when Charlie Crosby the father watches himself watching his wife pack as though their house were a stage set As the audience watches the husband the actor playing the husband the actor playing the husband struggling to figure out what to say as if he strains to author his own lines as if he is struggling to compose his own words Although Harding seems too articulate in his description of a man struggling for words the paragraph goes on for a full page I do recognize this shock induced detachment The recognition propelled me willingly into the rest of the book hoping he would do to justify the contrast between diction and anguishBut he never really did And alas my willingness didn't last As Charlie turns into a recluse failing to wash or change his clothes becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs it got harder and harder to sympathize with him He remembers Kate in a series of exuisite essays about things they had done together about the history of his family and of the town dreams fantasies and nightmares Each is beautifully written but few are believable as the expression of Charlie's state of mind at the time Of course they were all written a year later as the opening paragraph suggests But they don't sound as though they had been written by Charlie—a college dropout who earns money mowing lawns and painting houses—not even a Charlie cleaned up and sober This is not the half crazed grief of a bereaved father but some overpraised author manufacturing that grief as a framework for his own all too precious writing

  10. says:

    Holy run on sentences BatmanThis book was not for me I found it boring and long winded I got really tired of hearing about all the false worlds Charlie built up in his head after his daughter's death I couldn't even read the book after awhile I skimmed through huge sections whenever he started rambling about Kate which is all he ever did I was looking for something to happen I'm not joking about the run on sentences either Reading the Kindle version a single sentence could span multiple pages Ugh This happened continuouslyI don't know why I had I no sympathy for Charlie but I didn't which is probably what made the book so unbearable to me You have to want to know about Charlie and his state of mind to read about what is mostly his thoughts which become and twisted and sad as he descends into decrepitude as he once put it I really didn't much care There was absolutely nothing to relate to I can't recommend this one