Review: "Tinkers" by Paul Harding

  • Posted on: 14 September 2016
  • By: TedG

Several of us met at the Rivers Eatery on July 7, 2016, to discuss Tinkers by Paul Harding. Those in attendance included John Sill, Art, Mark, Irv, Ed, and Adrian. The book examines the thoughts and surroundings of a dying man as he reflects on his life, the life of his father, and the life of his father’s father. The author went back and forth between third person and first person narrations and sometimes it was confusing who was speaking. I think we all found the book interesting, but had mixed feelings about it. Irv really like the sentence structure, but had difficulty following and keeping characters separate, and decided to read it a second time. Art described the sentence structure to be kind of a stream of consciousness in a manner like Faulkner.

There was a lot of reference to clocks in the book. Irv did not get the connections. John liked the clock concept and through it was more of a metaphor of something you can tinker with and keep running. The book also had a theme of mental health issues including epilepsy, and to Art the clock symbolized something that can be controlled. To Mark the clock symbolized something concrete. Ed discussed the concept of clock contrasting nonlinear thought process that runs through this story.

Several of us we have spent time with dying people could relate to parts of the book. Art pointed out that dying people can at times have very lucid excerpts. The book in some ways seemed like the attempt of the author exploring the thought process and perceptions of the dying person that many of us have wondered about.

We also had some extensive discussion of mental health care in the last century. Irv worked in mental health facilities in the 1980s and recalled discussions with older workers on treatments used in the 1950s and 1960s. Others discussed family members dealing with mental health issues.

Our average ratings (1 lowest – 5 most favorable) were 2.4 for Readability and 3.4 for Interest; four of the six of us would read another book by this author.

While our overall ratings of the book are was somewhat mediocre, it did lead to some interesting discussion, and allowed some insightful reflections into our own lives.