Book column: Enon
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 23:10
I picked another hard one this week. Not just because some of the language is difficult and the writing is moving, but because of the painful nature of the subject matter.
“Enon” is the sophomore novel of Pulitzer prize winner Paul Harding, who was awarded this prestigious prize for his debut novel “Tinkers” in 2010. I have yet to read “Tinkers,” but maybe that will show up in a later column.
“Enon” goes through a year in the life of Charlie, a Massachusetts native who lives with his wife, Susan, and their daughter, Kate, as a painter and lawn caretaker. Their lives are fairly unremarkable and consist of the seemingly mundane problems of paying the bills and maintaining a caring, but relatively detached marriage.
This all changes when Charlie gets a frantic call from his wife one summer, saying their daughter was run over while riding her bike by a distracted mother of three, subsequently killing her.
It all pretty much goes downhill from there. Overcome with grief and the thread keeping their marriage together irrevocably severed, Charlie's wife leaves him, and he falls into such a profound state of grief he can barely be bothered to care.
Charlie’s days are spent lying on his couch, drinking, taking painkillers for the hand he broke punching a wall in his immeasurable grief and generally not caring about himself or the upkeep of his home. He eventually spirals into narcotic addiction, buying pills from dealers and stealing from the elderly and indisposed.
He becomes so ravaged, depressed and desperate for one last look at his daughter that he envisions and hallucinates a variety of scenarios with Kate just to have more memories of her, from her voyage into an alternate version of Enon, his town and the book’s namesake, to a tormented and disturbing show in which he puppeteers his daughter’s movements with his fingers and she ultimately bursts into flames.
While, after a year, he eventually realizes his behavior and his drowning grief needs to be reconsidered and adjusted, his life still maintains a deep sense of melancholy as he reluctantly tries to piece his life back together.
As you can probably tell from this brief summary, this is not a happy book. If you are are interested in something lighthearted, avoid this at all costs, though it was a very quick read, if that is something you are looking for.
Although the writing is interesting and at points moving, it has an unrealistic quality I was unable to ignore.Though it is understandable that the death of a child would tear apart any marriage, it seemed a little odd that Charlie’s wife would leave and then not be concerned at all when he does not respond to any form of contact. Even if their marriage was only held together through their daughter, you would think she would at least ask someone in the town to make sure he was eating or generally functioning at all.