Paul Harding does not subject readers to books that are hopeless.
That's good to know as you embark on "Enon," the second book by the 46-year-old drummer-turned-novelist whose debut book, "Tinkers," won the 2010 Pultizer Prize.
Released Sept. 10, "Enon" pulls readers inside the heart and soul of a man whose only child is crushed to death on her bicycle beneath the wheels of a car.
It's a sometimes tortuous read as a solitary human being's profound grief manifests itself in drug and alcohol abuse, isolation and hallucinatory encounters with the dead girl Kate, who in her short life came to define main character Charlie Crosby's very existence.
Harding is on tour to promote the novel and will be at the Orem City Library Tuesday at 7 p.m. as part of the library's "Orem Reads" program.
In Orem, he'll read instead from "Tinkers," which the program chose as the novel it would encourage patrons citywide to read and discuss because of its themes of family and family history, associate librarian Nathan Robison said. "Tinkers" tells the story of elderly clock repairman George Crosby, who in his dying days revisits his turbulent childhood as the son of an epileptic father.
In addition to reading from "Tinkers," Harding will speak about writing and the creative process, helping to build on Orem Reads' exploration of "writing as a tool for healing and exploring the human condition," Robison said.
Harding certainly can speak to those concepts, both in relation to "Tinkers" and to "Enon."
If you read his first novel, you'll feel you sort of know "Enon's" Charlie because he is George Crosby's grandson. Both men's stories unfold in a wooded New England town that almost becomes a character in its own right in Harding's work.
In a telephone interview, Harding said "Enon" grew from a visual image almost a silhouette of a man ambling through a cemetery at night.
He recognized the cemetery as that in Wenham, Mass., the town on the north shore of Boston where Harding grew up. Enon is the town's colonial name, and though a fictionalized place, closely resembles Harding's boyhood home.
Harding said he felt compelled to explain what the man was up to to tell his story and the novel was conceived.
He feels fortunate he already had about 75 pages of the book written and was under contract with Random House for "Enon" when he learned "Tinkers" had won the Pulitzer Prize.
It helped mitigate the pressure anyone winning a prestigious literary award would feel to meet high expectations for a followup novel.
Harding's also grateful he as a first-time novelist in his early 40s had the benefit of experience and perspective when he learned he'd won the prize
"If I had been a 25 year old fresh out of a [master's of fine arts] program, it might have been my undoing," he said.
"Enon," has not disappointed.
Charlie's story, though fraught with confusion, self-destruction and at times, despair, essentially is a story about love.
It offers readers frequent reminders of the comfort we draw in our darkest hours from our memories, the familiarity of our surroundings and our dreams for the future even when they are dashed.
We're not sure what will become of Charlie and fear greatly for him.
But through the book we hear his most intimate inner dialogue for a while and in the end, reach the conclusions he reaches.
That's a good result, as far as Harding is concerned.
His intention is never to abuse the reader, or make the reader "merely suffer through a bunch of grief just for the sake of suffering," he said.
Harding's new book, he believes, is anything but hopeless. "'Enon' is about love and hope and survival."
Pulitzer Prize-winning author speaks in Orem
P Paul Harding will read from his new novel "Enon," speak about the writing process and answer questions Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Orem City Library, 58 N. State St. Harding is the author of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "Tinkers," which is this year's Orem Reads book selection. More information about Orem Reads is available at orembigread.org.