Among Friends : Tin Man | 2017
"In the front bedroom, propped up among the books, is a color photograph of three people, a woman and two men. They are tightly framed, their arms around one another, and the world beyond is out of focus, and the world on either side excluded. They look happy, they really do. Not just because they are smiling but because there is something in their eyes, an ease, a joy, something they share."
- Tin Man, p. 9
The Sum of It
Ellis Judd lives a solitary life in Oxford, England. He follows a routine, working nights repairing dents and dings in metal at a car shop outside of town. The air of sadness that the reader senses from the beginning is soon revealed to be an after effect of loss; Ellis has lived in a cloud since his wife and his friend Michael's accident. However, when a bicycle accident of his own disrupts his routine with injury, forcing him to take time off from work and relieving him of his cocooned nocturnal routine, Ellis begins to feel the fog start to lift. He starts to notice his young neighbors, who are kind and take an interest in him. He realizes he has time to clear and plant in his wife's long neglected garden. He starts to venture to places that used to be part of his life, his life with his wife Annie and his best friend, Michael. And he starts to remember.
The book gently lays out and links the significant people and events in Ellis's life with sparse, unsentimental, but beautiful prose. He explores details of his and his friends' past that he had literally left in an attic, opens himself up to new people, while finally allowing himself to cast his thoughts over who he used to be, the people who shaped him, and even the dreams he used to hold. He decides to actually live.
The B&C Treatment
This is such a lovely, lovely book. As mentioned earlier in this post and pretty much everywhere anyone has written about it, the language is spare, but still carries imagery and emotion in a thoroughly visual way that many authors require a great deal more words to create. Winman's writing puts the reader fully in the midst of the main settings, Oxford and Provence, which are ethereal backdrops for a story about a man determining what makes a life and finding peace in it.
The dull ache Ellis has come to live with is palpable, as is the fact that though he is solitary, he has not become bitter. When his neighbor offers him a cup of coffee over the fence after his accident, the kindness of the gesture brings tears to Ellis's eyes, and it seems like allowing himself to connect with another person again, even so fleetingly, wakes him up. Winman paints a familiar and tender portrait of the rare closeness among good friends in Ellis's relationships with Michael and Annie, as well as the bittersweet feelings memories of those friendships leave as they change through the years. Where some authors would beat readers over the head with the sadness and pain of a situation like Ellis's, Winman writes with a backlight of hopefulness in his thoughtful walk through his past, establishing an almost sanguine tone that leaves the reader with a sense of joy.
This beautiful story is a read that lingers, and one I know I will revisit many times over the years. Though I have no authority here, I'd be happy to declare it a new classic.
You may like Tin Man if you like:
Hopeful and tender yet unsentimental stories about an individual's life and and how it can be impacted by the people they love such as Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, The Heart's Invisible Furies, by John Boyne, or The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard.