A Father’s Love
A heart-wrenching and introspective tale of love and loss, Enon is the latest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding
Review by Shana Raley-Lusk
Books | January 2014
“Most men in my family make widows of their wives and orphans of their children. I am the exception,” begins the main character of Paul Harding’s latest novel Enon. An intricately woven tale of of tragedy, anguish and grief, Enon tells the story of Charlie Crosby as he tries desperately and futilely to work through the most difficult time in his life. It chronicles his sadness in acute detail as well as his downward spiral into a heartbreaking life of solitude and, ultimately, addiction. Named for the small New England town in which it is set, Enon is the inwardly-focused monologue of one man’s journey through a life-altering experience.
As the book opens, we find Charlie recounting the day that his beloved teenage daughter, Kate, lost her life in a tragic accident. He remembers in detail that he had wanted her to spend the day with him instead, but that she had asked him to join her friend at the beach. It is a conversation that Charlie will never be able to forget and one that will ring in his head for years to come. The book examines the depth and complexity of parental love as well as the difficult journey of grief within a family. Ultimately, Charlie loses so much more than his daughter, but his odyssey is truly about his struggles against himself and the possibility of finding peace once more.Charlie remembers in detail his excitement during his wife Susan’s pregnancy with their daughter. He flashes back to an evening during that time and recalls in great detail the conversation they shared. “I touched her stomach through her maternity blouse. ‘Who are you in there?’ I asked. ‘I’m your dad,’ I said. ‘Me and your mom can’t wait to meet you and see who you are and find out what you’re like.’ Susan took my hand from her stomach and kissed it,” Harding writes.
Charlie’s intense eagerness to meet his unborn child in this memory is tragically paralleled by his intense suffering when he loses her thirteen years later. After the untimely loss of their child, Charlie and Susan soon part ways and he is left to his solitude and to his own inward-searching thoughts. His depression and lack of any true support system eventually lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol, all of which ends him in a life of isolation and ongoing self-reflection and regret.Enon is not a feel-good novel that leaves readers with warm and fuzzy feelings by any stretch of the imagination. But it is one of great value and importance, nonetheless, and does so in such beautiful prose. It explores in depth one of the most important human experiences, which is grief. It is a journey that we all must take at some point.
Charlie’s story is one of how grief and loss can be the unraveling of a person if great care is not taken. At the same time, Enon is about more than sadness and loss, too though. It is, in some ways, more focused on love and human connectedness than anything else. This father’s unconditional and limitless love for his child eclipses every other good thing in his life once it is lost. His journey in this world is forever changed and his life impacted in far-reaching ways because of losing his cherished daughter. While sad in one respect, this novel is a reminder to readers of what is truly important above all else in a human life.
Paul Harding’s writing style and talent for descriptive writing have been compared to that of the great William Faulkner and this book certainly does not disappoint in that respect. In regards to his depiction of the surrounding of his character, Harding definitely does his reputation justice in that he truly brings the environment to life. Readers will feel that they have been to New England and experienced the town of Enon after finishing this novel.A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harding is known for his mesmerizing debut novel Tinkers as well as his richly descriptive and captivating writing style. Charlie is, in fact, the grandson of the protagonist from Tinkers and both books are set in the same small town. A pensive story of love, family, introspection and loss, Enon is a thought-provoking and beautifully crafted tale.