Tin Man by Sarah Winman

tin-manThis was such a gorgeous, quiet book. Told in two distinct sections, it tells the story of Michael and Ellis, two childhood friends who remain close into adulthood, until Michael eventually drifts out of Ellis’s life.

I loved everything about this book. I inhaled it one sitting. It was perfectly structured, and the whole thing unfolded like the tumble of a waterfall–the story cascading over itself. It was sad, but not in an overwhelming way. Despite the hard things that happened in the novel, it was not a hard book to read. It was both heartbreaking and full of optimism.

I loved the way Winman played with memory, with how time changes how we feel about events and people. There was so much richness to the narrative, and to the way she chose to tell this story. Tin Man also captures so many moments of deep emotion so crisply–first love, heartbreak, grief in so many guises. The ordinary extraordinariness of making a family. Boyhood and the decadence of a perfect summer. The loneliness of middle age, a man alone in a quiet house. It was threaded through with moments of loss and change and celebration, all of them so perfectly rendered that I often had to put the book down, take a breath, and reread a few pages.

There were so many perfect scenes in this novel. The writing was soft and quiet, often imbued with a lingering sadness, but the characters were so alive, so vibrant. There was so much sensory detail that felt almost painful to read, in the way that experiencing the richness of the world is sometimes painful. Reading this book felt like walking through a summer meadow in intensely golden late afternoon light. Everything distilled down to the essence of itself. Deep sadness meshed with exuberance.

It was also full of surprises. The various ways Michael and Ellis interacted with each other over the course of their lives, the ways that their relationship changed and morphed after Ellis got married–nothing about this book was simple or expected. This is what I loved most about it. People rarely fit into one box or another, and often relationships don’t either, even though we try to force them there. In Tin Man, Winman explores all the ways that people love each other, all the different shapes that relationships take. This could have been a predictable story, but it wasn’t. It was constantly fresh.

I am not the kind of reader who cares much about spoilers (knowing what’s going to happen often increases my enjoyment of a book), but this was one of those rare books where I felt knowing little about it going in made it all the more lovely. There was something almost magical in Winman’s writing. Reading it felt like a discovery. It was as if I was slowly discovering these two different men, and the way their lives pulled on each other, just as they were discovering themselves.

Tin Man reminded me why I love novels so much. There is so much possibility in stories, even stories that are seemingly simple. This book is short and sparse, but so utterly full, so layered. I cannot recommend it enough.




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