Charlie Crosby is the grandson of George Crosby, the tinker, clockmaker, that we met in Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Tinkers”. This is also a short book, without any wasted words. As Tinkers told the story of George, this is the story of Charlie and his anguish after the death of his daughter.
When 13-year-old Kate is suddenly killed, under the wheels of a car driven by a distracted parent, Charlie is unable to cope. Kate was the glue that held his marriage together, and soon after her death, he and Susan separate. Slowly, his life begins to unravel further and further.
Throughout the book, as Charlie reminisces about his life with Kate, we witness the effect of her death on the ones left behind. It is a specific, rather than general examination of the deep sorrow felt by a parent that loses a child. It is simply not in the natural order of life and Charlie cannot seem to pull himself together. For a year, he suffers alone with his grief, shuttered in his home, visited by nightmares, wallowing in self-pity, suffering from delirium, and conjuring up visions of different versions of Kate, as he descends into a morass of drugs, alcohol and addiction, in a house that is falling apart around him. One night, after a failed attempt at suicide, he comes upon a couple of girls, around the same age as his daughter, and after a brief conversation, he is inspired to finally regain his life.
Heartache is a very personal thing, and Mr. Harding has presented an elaborate, descriptive examination of one’s man’s private suffering. It is a brutal story of despair, as slowly and methodically, Charlie comes undone, in a very unsuccessful attempt to deal with his pain.
Mr. Harding is the reader of his own audio book. He is Charlie, the narrator. Generally, I have found that a professional reader does a far better job, and this is no exception. Trained readers often give a dramatic presentation with more expression and emotion so that it is like watching a theater performance, in your mind’s eye. I thought, while Harding did a decent job, it often descended into a monotone.