The clock and the clockmaker; man and his creator. George, the clock repairman, lays dying, waiting, and unwinding the delicate pieces of his and his father’s past. He sifts through maladies of the mind: dementia, epilepsy, depression. But the mechanic cannot comprehend the brain’s betrayal of the mind. These conditions do not map onto the clock metaphor. The body, it turns out, does. George’s lungs fuel blood vessels that fuel tissues that make his heart tick—until they don’t. Harding is the ultimate tinker, of course: God, the author. He crafts the cogs of George’s mind and life to turn just so. Memories of a New England winter latch onto sermons from a withering brain, and onto a grandson’s reassuring voice, and so on. Harding engineers stories about yearning for quiet simplicity and understanding. Yearning that transcends generations, that never dies. Tinkers is about learning, at a point when you’d rather not—when you’d rather trust science over providence—that life is inexplicable, unruly. A disassembled clock does not illuminate. Its lifeless parts won’t explain your mother’s unhappiness. Its muted tock won’t resurrect your past. It cannot bring your father back, so you can ask him to stay for dinner.