Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Published May 15, 2018
Tin Man is a quiet, but deeply moving novel about the relationship between two men. I didn’t expect to be as touched by the story as I was; It snuck up on me, unfolding slowly, patiently until before I knew it this tiny, thoughtful book had imprinted itself on my heart forever.
Telling the story of two childhood friends, Michael and Ellis, who for a brief time were romantically involved, Tin Man begins with Ellis alone and barely holding it together after the death of his wife. We’re left to wonder where Michael is and what’s become of him in the intervening years. Non-linear scenes piece together the story, which is told first from Ellis’ point of view and then finally from Michael’s.
In a novel like this the characters are everything, and Winman has created a cast of incredibly human major and minor characters. I adored Michael, Ellis, Annie, and Mabel, and selfishly wished that I could spend more time with them but, as someone with a tendency to overwrite, I admire Tin Man all the more for being exactly as long as it needed to be and no longer. It is a masterpiece of brevity.
Winman’s prose is deceptively simple, but evocative. Each word seems to be perfectly placed to tell the story in a compassionate and delicate voice. Tin Man is admittedly more literary than my tastes usually run, but so vivid and quietly heartbreaking that I find it difficult to imagine a reader not won over by its charms.
Often the books that wreck me, that leave me emotionally compromised, are longer than Tin Man. They’re immensely readable, but measure four hundred, five hundred, even six hundred pages in length. Tin Man did it in just over two hundred pages. I was left teary-eyed and physically aching by the end of the book, while at the same time overwhelmed with warm thoughts through the quiet moments of humanity and kindness that Tin Man depicts. A poignant exploration of love, loss, grief, and absence, Tin Man packs an emotional punch and is undoubtedly the best book that I’ve read in 2018 so far.