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Paul Harding
Random House
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-400-06943-9
Publication Date: 09-10-2013
250 Pages; $26.00
Date Reviewed: 10-19-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  General Fiction  Fantasy  

Our world may end in many ways, most of them personal. Following from 'Tinkers,' Paul Harding's 'Enon' begins with an apocalypse then goes out to rebuild the world, sentence by sentence. It's beautiful and terrifying and just different enough from 'Tinkers' to feel right. It might feel easier, but that's an illusion. Life is very difficult but Paul Harding has the courage and skill to capture that in prose. To bring it to life in our minds, in words.

There's no reason to be shy about it. 'Enon' is the town where George Crosby died, and now his grandson, Charlie Crosby tells his own story, in the first person. As with 'Tinkers', the battle is declared in the first sentence. On one side of the lines, we meet Charlie in the first person, and that change makes our reading life seem as if it might be easier. But the sentence that tells us this tells us also that Charlie's daughter Kate has been killed and his wife has left him. This is how the world ends — and the novel begins.

As with 'Tinkers,' Harding moves us through time, memory and lives with incendiary, hallucinatory prose. While the first person telling makes the story more present and the characters more distinct, Harding has not given up his penchant (nor has he lost his talent) for dreamlike and nightmarish visions.

Nor has he lost his love for immersion in the pleasures of this world, of nature, but also, on the negative balance, in drugs and alcohol. Much of this book demands to be read aloud, so find a place to do so, preferably one surrounded by trees. Your emotions are going to be a bit battered, but authentically so. If you must ride the rails to hell, you're well advised to have Paul Harding as your prose tour guide.

Even as 'Enon' tears Charlie apart, Harding carefully builds out the world in which Charlie has lived and still may live, should be choose to experience it again. Harding is a consummate poet of the rural, forested, Northeast, and memories of reading this novel will be quite filled with green. And you will remember this novel. Harding's prose ensures this, and while he offers a bit more dialogue and fewer paragraph-less pages, there are plenty of visions of beauty and terror here.

Harding also goes about building the town of Enon; offering us more residents, touches of dry humor, and fuller, pulled-back portrait of where the Crosby family has lived. With 'Tinkers' and 'Enon,' Harding has crafted a prose memory for his readers. It's not an easy memory to achieve. It requires work on the part of the reader to read Harding's prose, but it pays you back by virtue of being not just creating tension and intensity by remaining just far enough out of reach to keep you grasping for every word. 'Enon' may not seem at first like the vacation you wanted to take. But it is the vacation you will remember.

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