Random House, 9/10/2013
Hardcover, 256 pages
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 questions. A stunning mosaic of human experience, Enon affirms Paul Harding as one of the most gifted and profound writers of his generation.“
Enon by Paul Harding is set in the same New England town as his Pulitzer Prize winning Tinkers. In Enon Charlie Crosby's life slowly spirals downward and falls apart after his thirteen year old daughter, Kate, is accidentally struck and killed by a van. Five days after Kate's funeral, Charlie punches a wall and breaks his hand. After taking Charlie to the emergency room, his wife, Susan, goes to stay with her family in Minnesota - and never returns. Charlie soon becomes addicted to the painkillers he has obtained for his broken hand. He is chasing his pain killers with copious amounts of whiskey in order to deal with the emotional pain and grief.
As we are privy to Charlie's thoughts, the descriptions of the world around him, the scenes he recalls, the reminiscences of past memories make the world in Charlie's mind the more tangible existence. Charlie is not just grieving. He is overwhelmed by grief. His grief has become the one reason for his existence. Even while he recalls memories from his childhood, and his life with Susan and Kate, all the memories are tinted with the anguish he feels over Kate's death. He is a man who is sacrificing himself to atone for his daughter's death. Kate was his hope for the future.
While a man's life falling apart after the tragic death of a child is a sombre subject matter, Harding's writing is exquisitely wrought and wonderfully eloquent. We can see and hear and feel everything Charlie is describing. Even while we know that his approach to mourning is self-destructive, Harding has imbibed Charlie with such articulation in his grieving. As he walks the streets and fields of Enon at night, he shares his stories. As he runs out of legal painkillers and turns to illegally obtained drugs, his behavior becomes more erratic. He is crying for help and it seems no one is listening or trying to reach him, to bring him back, to help him mourn and grieve and, hopefully, heal in a safe way.
Emotionally, Enon is not an easy novel to read. Some readers may have a hard time sympathizing with Charlie's overwhelming grief due to the dangerous choices he makes and how it overtakes his whole life. Others may tire of his self-reflection and stories. But I think that if you decide to commit to reading Enon, you will not regret it. It's not going to be light-hearted fluff, but it will open up to your scrutiny a man slowing being consumed by his grief.
Very Highly Recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.