Sunday, November 17, 2013

Enon by Paul Harding

Charlie Crosby is an average guy.  His wife, Susan, is a teacher, and Charlie runs a landscaping business.  They live in Charlie's hometown and have one daughter, Kate.  They don't have much materially, but what they have is enough.  Kate is the best thing they've done in their lives and is the center of their existence.  Charlie loves the town and its history and spends lots of time with his daughter introducing her to the land and the history.  When Kate is thirteen, she is struck on her bicycle by a car and killed.  Enon is the story of the year that follows.

It is clear fairly quickly that Kate was the reason for their marriage; the glue that held it together.  Susan goes home to her family for a visit soon afterwards, and never returns.  Charlie is left to himself, to endlessly replay the shining moments he shared with Kate and to experience the fathomless grief that overwhelms him.  Work falls by the wayside first.  Then he falls into addiction as he attempts to get past the rock that crushes him, the fact that stares him in the face every moment he is awake. 

Soon Charlie spends his nights wandering the towns, walking miles in an attempt to recreate past moments of happiness and to avoid remembering the hell his life has become.  He takes no care of himself and is soon gaunt and unkempt.  As the year progresses, he falls further and further outside his previous existence, as he tries to chase down the meaning of what has occurred and how he can ever start to live life again.

Paul Harding is that rare author who strikes gold with his debut novel.  Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize the year it was published, and was an American Library Association Notable Book.  Harding won the Pen/Robert Bingham Fellowship For Writers.  In this second novel, he returns to the New England environment and the family of that book; Charlie is the grandson of the protagonist of Tinkers. 

Readers will be taken into the intimate, soul-wrenching events that occur after the death of a child.  It is a harrowing read at times, but tells the truth of those parents who have lost their child.  There is no grief that can compare, and that grief is a greedy one.  In addition to the child, it can eat up marriages, jobs, health, and the will to live.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those who want to know what this life event is like from the raw inside. 

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