Written by A.W. Marshall
The second novel conundrum is a bit of a cliché: an unknown writer succeeds spectacularly on his or her first outing, only to crumble under the pressure to outdo this success. Paul Harding’s first novel, Tinkers, was a tour de force of language and metaphor, aesthetically similar to Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping, but where Housekeeping was haunted and wonderfully alienating, Tinkers was laced in a mystical hope and such exquisite language that each sentence seemed its own kind of love letter.
The impression I get from Harding’s new novel Enon is that he decided to write the novel he wanted to, regardless of pressure. And like Robinsons’ second novel, Gilead (and for that matter her third, Home), he chose to not be limited by his or anyone else’s “Tinkerish” (or “Housekeepingish”) expectations.