I can't imagine that there is any loss more painful than the death of a child. It is every parent's worst nightmare. But in Paul Harding's Enon, as we learn on the book's first page, Charlie Crosby is faced with that devastating reality. Crosby is the grandson of George Crosby, the Maine clock repairer who was the protagonist of Harding's first novel, the Pulitzer Prize winning “Tinkers”. If you've read that book you will remember the remarkable lyricism of Harding's prose and his powerful descriptions of the natural world.
Those gifts are amply evident in this novel. For a full year Charlie wanders the small town of Enon, observing the changing seasons, numbed by drugs and alcohol, grieving for his daughter Kate. And honestly, he's a mess. The narrative mirrors his disintegrating psyche - fragmentary, hallucinatory, disjointed. Harding doesn't cushion his blows; we see Charlie in all his misery and all his self-pity. He's no hero, but he doesn't ask for our sympathy.
I admire the power and honesty of Harding's prose, but this is a tough book to read, and at times I had to set it aside. But it has a haunting beauty and I always returned to it.