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Enon: A Novel by Paul Harding

Enon: A Novel

by Paul Harding

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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.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This was a great read. Character development was very well done and the story was woven between past and present well. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This was a great read. Character development was very well done and the story was woven between past and present well. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
The best writers can be forgiven for being long-winded, and based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Tinkers, and the follow-up, Enon, it's clear that Paul Harding is one of the best writers at work today. Tinkers is an intimate survey detailing the final hours of the life of George Washington Crosby as his mind wanders across the many years of his long life while he lays in bed, debilitated by age and infirmity. Enon is a continuation of sorts that focuses on George's grandson Charles. Both novels make use of a lush New England setting to ground tales that meander more or less freely while exploring memory and history. Both exhibit Harding’s mesmerizing command of the English language. The prose in Enon is every bit as spellbinding as that in Tinkers. There are abundant passages of breathtaking precision and beauty in which the world being evoked comes to life so vividly that the reader seems to enter that world and forget the book in his hand. The story it tells is a powerful one of tragedy and loss. However there is no doubt that Enon is inferior in comparison to its predecessor. Charlie Crosby’s loss of his thirteen-year-old daughter Kate—killed by a car while riding her bicycle home from the beach—is profound. His response, which combines guilt, anger, frustration and grief into a toxic mix, is believable, up to a point. But when he lets his wife Susan walk out of the house and out of his life without a fight, and lets his anguish so overwhelm him that he stops washing and allows the house to become a pigsty, and becomes addicted to painkillers and drinks himself into a stupor every night, the reader might be forgiven for growing impatient with a man who appears to be his own worst enemy. Granted, Harding makes it clear from Charlie’s memories that he doted on Kate, loved her as a father should, wanted to teach her everything he knows and wanted her to grow up curious and healthy and with a chance to make the most of her beauty and talents. But it seems something of a miscalculation for Harding to allow his protagonist to become completely unhinged by his daughter’s death. Where is his strength? Where is his resolve? Where is his instinct for what Kate would have wanted him to do? Midway through the book Charlie’s all-consuming grief takes on characteristics of an unhealthy obsession. For the reader, it makes for a claustrophobic and sometimes uncomfortable reading experience. What’s more, there are a number of lengthy passages that take place entirely in Charlie’s drug-addled imagination, in which he sees Kate in a boat at sea or backlit in a field or in other fanciful situations that, while beautifully rendered, bring the story to a grinding halt. One finishes the novel with a sense that, though not overly long, it could have been shorter. We might even wonder if a writer with a Pulitzer Prize in his pocket resisted the advice of his editors. Whatever the case, what could have been a brilliant novella—bitter and potent like an elixir—comes to us bloated and somewhat rambling. Still, the power of Harding’s prose is undeniable. His language soars when he describes the natural world. For all its faults, Enon is worth the effort of seeking it out. But it is also worth entertaining the hope that in his next novel Harding tames his proclivity for wordiness and exercises the discipline and restraint of a truly great writer. ( )
  icolford | Dec 28, 2015 |
The author has an amazing facility in rendering Charlie Crosby's overwhelming and debilitating grief as his life falls apart following his 14 yo daughter's death: vivid, hallucinatory to the point of mystical, incandescent. At the same time, the protagonist's over-the-top (or perhaps under-the-bottom) dissolution, and the author's relentlessly close focus on Charlie's self-destructive, drug-fueled free-fall became difficult to stay with through the length of this short novel. At a certain point, Charlie's nearly perfect isolation within his small town during the year following his daughter's death came to seem contrived, creating fissures in the fiction. The book was amply rewarding for the power and vivacity of the prose alone ... but despite the narrator's rich and informative narration about his world and family, and their storied history, it's the novel's narrow emotional focus that didn't quite come off for me. This was not the case for the author's first novel, TINKERS, or for Teju Cole's similarly-discursive novel OPEN CITY ... my experience of ENON was not a matter of distaste for this type of fiction, far from it. But I should say that the 'flaws' are only causing me to mark down this novel from the five stars its prose deserves to a four overall. I will definitely pick up Harding's future work. He is a novelist worth following. ( )
  smasover | Jul 18, 2015 |
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Most men in my family make widows of their wives and orphans of their children.
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Powerful, brilliantly written, and deeply moving Paul Harding has, in Enon, written a worthy successor to Tinkers, a debut which John Freeman on NPR called "a masterpiece." Drawn always to the rich landscape of his character's inner lives, here, through the first person narrative of Charlie Crosby (grandson to George Crosby of Tinkers), Harding creates a devastating portrait of a father trying desperately to come to terms with family loss.
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A grieving Charlie Crosby (grandson of Tinkers protagonist George Washington Crosby) attempts to come to terms with the death of his daughter, Kate, and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage.

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