TIN MAN by Sarah Winman
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, May 15, 2018
Tin Man is a beautiful, tender, deeply moving novel that packs a far greater punch than I would have thought possible for its short page count. It has all the heart and heartbreak of something like The Heart’s Invisible Furies – and not a watered down version, either, just more compact. I put it down feeling drained and devastated and deeply impressed at the extent to which such a simple story was able to get under my skin.
Tin Man is told from the alternating perspectives of Ellis and Michael, two childhood friends who once fell in love. But at the beginning of the novel, Ellis is alone and grieving for his dead wife, and Michael is nowhere to be found. The rest of the story puts the pieces together in a non-linear fashion, creating snapshots of Ellis’ and Michael’s lives until we finally see the full picture.
From the very first page this is an achingly lonely and bittersweet book. My heart felt heavy even before we learned why exactly Ellis is grieving, because the atmosphere is rife with nostalgia and regret; the characters are all consumed with missed opportunities and thoughts of better days. It’s hard not to connect to the novel’s emotionality to some degree, even before you’re pulled into the story that is uniquely Ellis’ and Michael’s. And what great characters they are – flawed and unhappy and afraid to grasp at the happiness that’s within their reach.
This book makes me appreciate the art of brevity in storytelling – Winman’s prose is incisive and her execution of this story is succinct; not a single word is out of place and not a single page is wasted. Tin Man manages to be a subtle yet thorough meditation on first love, freedom, solitude, and the indelible marks we leave on each other’s lives. By the end of this I wanted more, out of a selfish desire to stay immersed in these pages even longer, but nothing was missing. It’s not a perfect book because there is probably no such thing, but it comes closer than anything I’ve read in a while.
Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Sarah Winman for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.