TIN MAN by Sarah Winman is one of the most evocative books I’ve read in ages – a quiet, understated gem that captures a world of feeling in a powerful punch.
The opening premise is simple. Two 12-year-old boys, Ellis and Michael, become friends. Both are sons of abusive fathers, deeply vulnerable, desperate for understanding, affection, and trust. Their friendship deepens, eventually evolving into something more.
In time, Ellis falls in love with Annie, but Michael is part of the couple’s life from the start, loved by both, if not in a sexual way. Michael is deeply involved in planning the wedding, perhaps even more excited about it than Ellis, who is more conflicted about his sexuality than Michael. The portrayal of this is breathtaking.
Soon after the wedding, Michael disappears. Where to? We do learn. But his first love lingers.
TIN MAN is a short book filled with spare prose that beautifully illuminates love and loss. It is filled with small moments that positively burst with life. Set between the 1970s and 1990s, the story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is told in the voice of the men – Ellis’s in the third person, Michael’s in the first.
Annie’s voice is captured through their eyes, as are those of two other women pivotal to the men’s lives, Michael’s grandmother and Ellis’s mother.
I was barely done reading when I had to call the friend who had recommended this book to me. So much to discuss, not the least is the significance of the title. What a multi-layered book!
One final thought. Normally, when I see an audiobook narrated by the author, I take a pass. Authors aren’t actors. Only, this author is! She is masterful in the reading, conveying the different voices, yes, but also the pacing and the heart.
If you’re looking for a different read, a short but powerful one, I highly recommend TIN MAN.