After a terrible tragedy, people often do one of two things: scrap everything and begin again, or remain perfectly still.
In “Enon,” the latest from Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Harding, we see both actions come to fruition when Kate, beloved daughter of Charlie and Susan Crosby, is killed in a biking accident. After the burial, Susan leaves Charlie and moves to Minnesota while Charlie remains in Enon to begin the painstaking process of carrying on his life without his daughter and wife.
“I was always restless and ill at ease, running too hot. But Kate gave my life joy. I loved her totally, and while I loved her, the world was love. Once she was gone, the world seemed to prove nothing more than ruins and the smoldering dreams of monsters.”
And “Enon” (Random House Publishing Group, 256 pages, $26) is filled with monsters, including addiction, grief, regret and self-loathing. As Charlie spirals further into darkness, Harding takes us back to other periods in Charlie’s life: the joy of taking walks with his daughter, the comfort in accompanying his grandfather on clock repair jobs. These memories are all the more poignant when juxtaposed against Charlie’s loss. The seamless movement between periods in Charlie’s life exquisitely shows how we are never just one person, and how we never live just one life, but are made up of various lives and the people we once were.
What keeps “Enon” grounded and suspenseful, even, is Charlie’s deep, unabashed love for his hometown. When thinking about the afterlife and his daughter, harlie constructs rich imaginations of Kate living among Enon’s founders which, as the book continues, gives Charlie comfort and, finally, peace.
Equal parts Sherwood Anderson and Marilynne Robinson, “Enon” is truly a wonder: a tale of both blinding grief and steadfast love.