Review: Enon

Charlie Crosby, the protagonist of Enon, is the grandson of George Crosby from Paul Harding's Pulitzer-winning Tinkers. Like that novel, Enon is set in a familiar New England landscape, but everything else has changed. In one year of Charlie's life, we see the ravages wrought by the accidental death of his 13-year-old daughter, Kate, killed by a car while riding her bike. A week after the funeral, his wife, Susan, goes to visit her family in Minnesota; that is the last he sees of her.

Charlie's grief is monumental, self-destructive and nearly fatal. He cannot accept the brutal fact his daughter is forever gone. In an outburst of rage and helplessness, he breaks the bones in his hand punching through the living room wall. Now he requires pain medication just to keep functioning--the beginning of his long downward slide into living the life of a derelict, going from one slug of cough syrup or whiskey to the next, one pill to another. He watches the detritus of his daily life pile up around him, unable to rally even to shower or change his clothes.

Through it all, Harding captures the times that Charlie and Kate spent together--feeding birds, learning the landscape, camping, going for walks, talking about anything and everything--so we know what he has lost. Charlie ruminates about the New England seasons, spending days and nights walking all over town. He also recalls things he learned from his grandfather, lamenting they will not be passed on. There is no corner of loss and profound grief Charlie does not experience.

One night, marauding around town looking for drugs, he breaks into the house of a very old woman, Mrs. Hale, who, not a bit afraid, upbraids him for what she has witnessed to be shameful behavior. When he apologizes for being in her house, she tells him: "Well and fine, Mr. Crosby, but your sorrows are selfish. You are a maker of dismal days. You burn your daughter in strange fires, when I should think you would be grateful for the blessing of having had a lovely child. Enough is enough."

He hears this oracular pronouncement and thinks: "I realized that what I had been doing since Kate's death was nothing short of violence. It was not grieving or healing or even mourning, but the deliberate, enthralled persistence in the violence of her death." He is finally able to come back to some kind of life. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: A deeply interior novel that explores the workings of grief felt by a father after the death of his daughter.

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