The book's opening line reads, "George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died." That begins the clock-like countdown to the end of his life. During those eight days, we experience foggy, elusive memories from his long life. And we learn the story of George's father, Howard.
You have to pay attention reading this book or you can quickly get lost. There are flashbacks and voice changes. There are excerpts from old books. (Is there really an 18th Century book called The Reasonable Orologist? Because if there is I really want to read it.) And then there is something about how to build bird nests with little pieces of metal tied to your fingers, the instructions taken from a "lost pamphlet."
There is so much going on in this book that it begs to be read a second time. It's written with some of the most beautiful language I've ever read. Small moments like the descriptions of Howard's epileptic seizures or the joys of starting life over as a grocery bag boy are stunning. The book speaks so eloquently about death that you start to wonder if the author has experienced it. And the characters are written so well that you feel like you've lived a lifetime together.
This is Paul Harding's first novel so maybe it can't be a literary classic (although I'll bet there are a few first novels that fall into the classics category). I'll likely reread this book and I'll definitely read anything Harding writes in the future.
Tinkers gets a great big Read It! rating.