Tin Man

Tin Man

by Sarah Winman

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From internationally bestselling author Sarah Winman comes an unforgettable and heartbreaking novel celebrating love in all its forms, and the little moments that make up the life of one man.

"My favorite book of the year was Tin Man. Sparsely written and achingly beautiful...The most powerful take on love, loss and vulnerability I've read in years."--A Cup of Jo

This is almost a love story. But it's not as simple as that.

Ellis and Michael are twelve-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast-forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question: What happened in the years between?

With beautiful prose and characters that are so real they jump off the page, Tin Man is a love letter to human kindness and friendship, and to loss and living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735218758
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 17,952
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Sarah Winman is the author of two previous novels, When God Was a Rabbit and A Year of Marvelous Ways. She grew up in Essex and now lives in London. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film, and television.

Read an Excerpt


All Dora Judd ever told anyone about that night three weeks before Christmas was that she won the painting in a raffle.

She remembered being out in the back garden, as lights from the Cowley Car Plant spilled across the darkening sky, smoking her last cigarette, thinking there must be more to life.

Back inside, her husband said, Bloody move it, will you, and she said, Give it a rest, Len, and she began to undo her housedress as she made her way upstairs. In the bedroom, she looked at herself sideways in the mirror, her hands feeling for the progression of her pregnancy, this new life she knew was a son.

She sat down at her dressing table and rested her chin on her hands. She thought her eyes looked tired, her skin dry. She painted her lips red and the color instantly lifted her face. It did little for her mood, however.

The moment she walked through the door of the Community Center, she knew it had been a mistake to come. The room was smoky and festive drinkers jostled as they tried to get to the bar. She followed her husband through the crowds and the intermittent wafts of perfume and hair oil, bodies and beer.

She wasn’t up for socializing with him anymore, not the way he behaved with his friends, making a point of looking at every pretty thing that passed, making sure she was watching. She stood off to the side holding a glass of warm orange juice that was beginning to make her feel sick. Thank God Mrs. Powys made a beeline for her, clutching a book of raffle tickets.

Top prize was a bottle of Scotch whisky, said Mrs. Powys, as she took Dora over to the table where the prizes were laid out. Then we have a radio, a voucher for a haircut and set at Audrey’s Coiffure, a tin of Quality Street sweets, a pewter hip flask, and lastly—and she leaned forward for this confidence—a midsize oil painting of very little worth. Albeit a fine copy of a European work of art, she added with a wink.

Dora had seen the original on a school trip to London at the National Gallery’s Pimlico site. Fifteen years old she’d been, full of the contradictions of that age. But when she had entered the gallery room, the storm shutters around her heart flew open and she knew immediately that this was the life she wanted: Freedom. Possibility. Beauty.

There were other paintings in the room, too, she ­remembered—van Gogh’s Chair and Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières—but it was as if she had fallen under this particular painting’s spell, and whatever had transfixed her then, and drawn her into the inescapable confines of its frame, was exactly what was pleading with her now.

Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys.

Mrs. Judd? repeated Mrs. Powys. Can I tempt you to a ticket, then?


A raffle ticket?

Oh, yes. Of course.

The lights flickered on and off and a man tapped a spoon against a glass. The room quietened as Mrs. Powys made a great show of reaching into the cardboard box and pulling out the first winning ticket. Number seventeen, she said, grandly.

Dora was too distracted by the feelings of nausea to hear Mrs. Powys, and it was only when the woman next to her nudged her and said, It’s you! that Dora realized she had won. She held up her ticket and said, I’m seventeen! and Mrs. Powys shouted, It’s Mrs. Judd! Mrs. Judd is our first winner! and led her over to the table to take her pick of the prizes.

Leonard shouted out for her to choose the whisky.

Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys, quietly.

But Dora said nothing, she stared at the table.

Get the whisky, Leonard shouted again. The whisky! And slowly, in unison, the men’s voices chanted, Whisky! Whisky! Whisky!

Mrs. Judd? said Mrs. Powys. Will it be the whisky? And Dora turned and faced her husband and said, No, I don’t like whisky. I choose the painting instead.

It was her first ever act of defiance. Like cutting off an ear. And she made it in public.

She and Len left shortly after. They sat separately on the bus journey home, her up, him down. When they got off, he stormed ahead of her, and she fell back into the peace of her star-aligned night.

The front door was ajar when she arrived and the house was dark, no noise from upstairs. She went quietly into the back room and turned on the light. It was a drab room, furnished by one pay packet, his. Two armchairs were set by the hearth and a large dining table that had witnessed little conversation over the years blocked the way to the kitchen. There was nothing on those brown walls except a mirror, and Dora knew she should hang the painting in the shadow of the dresser away from his sight, but she couldn’t help herself, not that night. And she knew if she didn’t do it then, she never would. She went to the kitchen and opened his toolbox. She took out a hammer and a nail and came back to the wall. A few gentle taps and the nail moved softly and easily into the plaster.

She stood back. The painting was as conspicuous as a newly installed window, but one that looked out onto a life of color and imagination, far away from the gray factory dawn and in stark contrast to the brown curtains and brown carpet, both chosen by a man to hide the dirt.

It would be as if the sun itself rose every morning on that wall, showering the silence of their mealtimes with the shifting emotion of light.

The door exploded and nearly came off its hinges. Leonard Judd made a lunge for the painting, and as quickly as she had ever moved in her life, Dora stood in front of it, raised the hammer, and said, Do it and I’ll kill you. If not now, then when you sleep. This painting is me. You don’t touch it, you respect it. Tonight I’ll move into the spare room. And tomorrow you’ll buy yourself another hammer.

All for a painting of sunflowers.



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. It was taken in spring or summer, you can tell by the clothes they are wearing (T-shirts, pale colors, that sort of thing), and, of course, because of the light.

One of the men from the photograph, the one in the middle with scruffy dark hair and kind eyes, is asleep in that room. His name is Ellis. Ellis Judd. The photograph, there among the books, is barely noticeable, unless you know where to find it, and because Ellis no longer has any desire to read, there is little compulsion for him to move toward the photograph, and for him to pick it up and to reminisce about the day, that spring or summer day, on which it was taken.

The alarm clock went off at five in the afternoon as it always did. Ellis opened his eyes and turned instinctively to the pillow next to him. Through the window dusk had fallen. It was February still, the shortest month, which never seemed to end. He got up and turned off the alarm. He continued across the landing to the bathroom and stood over the toilet bowl. He leaned a hand against the wall and began to empty his bladder. He didn’t need to lean against the wall anymore but it was the unconscious act of a man who had once needed support. He turned the shower on and waited until the water began to steam.

Washed and dressed, he went downstairs and checked the time. The clock was an hour fast because he had forgotten to put it back last October. However, he knew that in a month the clocks would go forward and the problem would right itself. The phone rang as it always did, and he picked it up and said, Carol. Yes, I’m all right. OK then. You, too.

He lit the stove and brought two eggs to the boil. Eggs were something he liked. His father did, too. Eggs were where they came together in agreement and reconciliation.

He wheeled his bike out into the freezing night and cycled down Divinity Road. At Cowley Road he waited for a break in the traffic heading east. He had done this journey thousands of times and could close his mind and ride at one with the black tide. He turned into the sprawling lights of the Car Plant and headed over to the Paint Shop. He was forty-five years old, and every night he wondered where the years had gone.

The stink of white spirit caught in his throat as he walked across the line. He nodded to men he had once socialized with, and in the Tinny Bay, he opened his locker and took out a bag of tools. Garvy’s tools. Every one of them handmade, designed to get behind a dent and to knock it out. People reckoned he was so skilled at it he could take the cleft out of a chin without the face knowing. Garvy had taught him everything. First day with him, Garvy picked up a file and struck a discarded door panel and told him to get the dent out.

Keep your hand flat, he’d said. Like this. Learn to feel the dent. Look with your hands, not your eyes. Move across it gently. Feel it. Stroke it. Gently now. Find the pimple. And he stood back, all downward mouth and critical eye.

Ellis picked up the dolly, placed it behind the dent and began to tap above with the spoon. He was a natural.

Listen to the sound! Garvy’d shouted. Get used to the sound. The ringing lets you know if you’ve spotted it right. And when Ellis had finished, he stood up pleased with himself because the panel was as smooth as if it had just been pressed. Garvy said, Reckon it’s out, do you?

And Ellis said, Course I do. And Garvy closed his eyes and ran his hands across the seam and said, Not out.

They used to listen to music back then, but only once Ellis knew the sound that metal made. Garvy liked Abba, he liked the blonde one best, Agnetha someone, but he never told anyone else. Over time, though, Ellis came to realize the man was so lonely and eager for companionship that the process of smoothing out a dent was as if his hands were running across a woman’s body.

Later in the canteen, the others would stand behind him and pout, run their hands down their make-believe breasts and waists, and they would whisper, Close your eyes, Ellis. Do you feel it, that slight pimple? Can you feel it, Ellis? Can you?

It was Garvy, who sent him to the trim shop to ask for a “trim woman,” the silly sod, but only the once, mind. And when he retired, Garvy said, Take two things from me, Ellis boy. First—work hard and you’ll have a long life here. And second—my tools.

Ellis took the tools.

Garvy died a year after retiring. This place had been his oxygen. They reckoned he suffocated doing nothing.

Ellis? said Billy.


I said nice night for it, and he closed his locker.

Ellis picked up a coarse file and smashed it into a scrap panel.

There you go, Billy, he said. Knock it out.

It was one in the morning. The canteen was busy and smelled of chips and shepherd’s pie and something overcooked and green. The sound of a radio crept out from the kitchen, Oasis, “Wonderwall,” and the serving women sang along. Ellis was next in the queue. The light was harsh and he rubbed his eyes and Janice looked at him concerned. But then he said, Pie and chips, Janice, please.

And she said, Pie and chips it is then. There we go, my love. Gentlemen’s portions, too.


Night, my love.

He walked over to the table in the far corner and pulled out a chair.

Do you mind, Glynn? he said.

Glynn looked up. Be my guest, he said. You all right there, Ellis mate?

Fine, he said, and he began to roll a cigarette. What’s the book? he asked.

Harold Robbins. If I don’t cover the front of it, you know what this lot are like. They’ll make it smutty.

Any good?

Brilliant, said Glynn. Nothing predictable. The twists, the violence. Racy cars, racy women. Look. That’s the photograph of the author. Look at him. Look at his style. That is my kind of man.

What’s your kind of man? You a bit of a nelly, Glynn? said Billy, pulling up a chair.

In this context, my kind of man means the kind I’d hang out with.

Not us then?

I’d rather chew my hand off. No offense, Ellis.

None taken.

I was a bit like him in the seventies, style-wise, that is. You remember, Ellis?

A bit Saturday Night Fever, were you? said Billy.

I’m not listening to you.

White suit, gold chains?

Not listening.

All right, all right. Truce? said Billy.

Glynn reached across for the ketchup.

But, said Billy.

But what? said Glynn.

I bet you could tell by the way you used your walk that you were a woman’s man with no time to talk.

What’s he going on about? said Glynn.

No idea, said Ellis quietly, and he pushed his plate away.

Out into the night, he lit his cigarette. The temperature had dropped and he looked up and thought that snow was threatening. He said to Billy, You shouldn’t wind Glynn up like that.

Billy said, He’s asking for it.

No one’s asking for it. And cut out the nelly shit.

Look, said Billy. Ursa Major. Can you see it? The Great Bear.

Did you hear me? said Ellis.

Look—down, down, down, up. Across. Down. And up, up. You see?

Did you hear me I said?

Yes, I heard you.

They walked back toward the Paint Shop. But did you see it? said Billy.

Oh Jesus, said Ellis.

The horn blared out and the assembly line slowed and the men busied themselves in handover and departure. It was seven in the morning and the morning was dark. Ellis wondered when he’d last seen the sun. He felt restless after shift, and when he felt like that he never went home straightaway because the loneliness would pounce. Sometimes, he cycled up to Shotover Woods, or out to ­Waterperry, just him filling the hours with the dull burn of miles in his calves. He’d watch the morning lighten against the trees and listen to birdsong to soothe his ears after the clash of industry. He tried not to think too much about things, out there in nature, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. When it didn’t, he cycled back thinking his life was far from how he had intended it to be.


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Tin Man 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous 13 days ago
A beautiful love story, incredibly well written. Connie Dimling
Anonymous 16 days ago
sad but beautiful
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
Tin Man is a poignant story about love, longing and the ultimate sacrifice. Michael and Ellis love each other, but Ellis also loves Annie. Annie, understanding how it is between Ellis and Michael finds that she loves them both. They are a love triangle like no other but each hold deep admiration for the others and it’s clear that their love for one another trumps anything else that could come their way. Tin Man was an amazing read. It’s the kind of book that fills you up. It’s a simple story but these characters come together in the most beautiful way and the writing is so lovely it almost hurts your heart to read some of its passages. I know it seems as if I’ve told you nothing about the plot but really, I’ve told you everything you need to know. It’s gorgeous and lush in the telling and although it’s really very short at 200+ pages, it never felt short or rushed. It was just perfect and I am sure it will be on my list of faves at the end of the year.
Dana Portwood More than 1 year ago
In the spirit of Kent Haruf and Leif Enger, Sarah Winman has written a book and the ways we are connected and the depth and breadth of the spaces between us. Tin Man is the story of three lovers: Micheal, Annie, and Ellis. Micheal and Ellis have a passionate but complicated past, Annie and Ellis have a passionate but complicated future, and in between them lies all of their loss, experiences, hopes, and eventually, despair and death. After a tragic accident, Ellis is left alone. Through his memories and experiences, we explore the terrain of grief and love, what makes us human and the ways we dehumanize even ourselves. This isn't a book about doing as much as it is a book about being. Who are we? How do we fit? How do we love? And where do we go when the world finds our truest self-expression to be shameful and even repulsive? This is my first book by Sarah Winman, and I loved her spare, precise writing style. Her unique tone made everything feel hazy and either the joyful gold of sunflowers or the foggy grey of London, as memories so often seem to be. Tin Man is a book for those who enjoy exploring the inner life and how we relate to the world and the people around us. In this, I found it deeply satisfying even though the lives of the characters it portrays are sometimes bleak and disconnected.
Kristy_K More than 1 year ago
This is a quiet novel that explored a myriad of emotions. It’s short but it packs a punch and was a good palate cleanser from the fast paced thrillers I’ve been reading lately.
Twink More than 1 year ago
I read Sarah Winman's debut novel, When God Was a Rabbit, back in 2011. It was a unique first novel that I really enjoyed. Winman's latest is Tin Man - and it is a simply beautiful read - one that I absolutely recommend. The cover is the perfect accompaniment to the story within. The sunflowers are overlaid by a subtle metallic gold leaf that is only visible when the cover catches the light. Tin Man opens with a prologue that ties that cover to the story within. And I was hooked immediately. In 1952 Dora wins the painting in a raffle. "The painting was as conspicuous as a newly installed window, but one that looked out onto a life of color and imagination, far away from the grey factory dawn and in stark contrast to the brown curtains and brown carpet, both chosen by a man to hide the dirt." We jump forward to 1996 and meet Ellis - Dora's son. Ellis has suffered much loss in his life - his mother, his wife, his best friend Michael and the direction he hoped his life would have taken. My heart ached for Ellis - his sadness and loss is raw and palpable. Winman's prose are so powerful and compelling. The reader is drawn into Ellis's life as he remembers, revisits and relives his life as he slowly allows himself to grieve. And through those remembrances, we learn more about Michael. From the flyleaf...."This is almost a love story. But it's not as simple as that." Michael is also given a voice with part two. What Ellis has recounted is told from Michael's view, as he too chronicles his life. And it is just as poignant, if not more. Absolutely recommended. Winman's words will move you to tears. While I'm not sure of the origins of the title, my thinking is it is from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others” - The Tin Woodman.
LlamaJen More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved When God Was A Rabbit and wanted to feel the same way about this book, but I didn't. I didn't hate the book, it just wasn't for me. It all began with a painting of sunflowers. I loved the first chapter, but after that it seemed like a totally different book. I didn't love the characters. It's definitely a love story, just a very sad love story. I thought there would be more to the ending. Give the book a try because you may end up loving it. I am looking forward to reading more books by the author. Thanks to NetGalley, PENGUIN GROUP Putnam and the author, Sarah Winman, for a free electronic ARC of this novel.
Laeljeanne More than 1 year ago
Ellis and Michael begin a lifelong friendship after Michael’s mother dies and he comes to live with his grandmother Mabel, both boys sharing the affection of Mabel and Ellis’ mother Dora. The delicacy of their first love romance shatters as Ellis yields to society’s mores after a turning point in France, and even Michael understands that Annie is “the one.” Loving Annie draws Michael into their orbit, expanding her idea of family to include him and his grandmother. Although readers are familiar with the horrific stories of gay men succumbing to AIDS, Winman carefully portrays Michael’s unique perspective on his friends’ deaths—he returns to France where he grieves for all that he’s lost in his life. The first half of the book focuses on Ellis after all of his losses leave him off-kilter, wondering what to do with himself. The second half flashes back through Michael’s journals, a candid look at a man whose fulfilled expectations disappoint. This is a gorgeous story of how love grows to include those who might be estranged by circumstances. I was fortunate to receive a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
This book takes place in England and spans the time period of the early sixties to the mid-nineties. I was immediately drawn emotionally to the character of Ellis Judd, a man in his forties who is just going through the motions to get up each day and go to work. He's functioning physically like a machine, yet he's swallowed up by grief and emptiness as he passes through each day. The work alarm goes off, he brushes his teeth...these are all huge accomplishments to a person so hollowed out by sorrow. As the book begins, a photograph is referenced showing Ellis, his wife Annie and best friend Michael. They all have expressions of sheer happiness as they stand together in a joint embrace, the background out of focus. Then we find out that Ellis Judd's wife Annie died five years ago in a car accident. But, there's much more to the story of Ellis's feelings of devastation, for his legacy of love was much more complicated. For he was the central figure in loving both his wife and the beloved male friend from his youth. The first half of the book is told from Ellis's point of view, and the second half is told from Michael's point of view, with a short epilogue from Ellis ending the book. This was a very fast read for me, and I usually read at a snail's pace. I was surprised to hear that this was a short book (it's a little over 200 pages), because I rationalized my fast read due to the brilliance of the writing. It didn't feel like the book was short, because the story was so rich. I was a little disoriented by the latest trend of not using quotations to reference dialogue, but managed without much distress. The backstory to Ellis's life speaks of his very influential mother Dora. She wins a copy of one of Van Gogh's paintings "Sunflowers" at a community center raffle. She has a passionate and visceral connection to this painting, which she first noticed on a school trip at fifteen years old. Her crass and surly husband Leonard had shouted out to her to choose the whisky prize over the painting. But, in Dora's first act of defiance, she chose the painting. This seemingly inconsequential item means so much to her that when Leonard threatens to destroy the painting, Dora says, "Do it and I'll kill you," - as she stands in front of the painting raising the hammer she just used to hang it up. There are many moments where Dora can be found sitting in front of this painting, just gazing at in rapture, as it provides for her a kind of peace and inspiration...a world apart from her disappointing marriage. The meeting of Ellis and Michael during their youth at the local greengrocers "Mabel's" is momentous. Michael is a sensitive and well-read child, having been orphaned and taken in by Mabel. Michael relates very well to Ellis's Mom Dora. They share their love of the Sunflowers painting and communicate about many other things like books (Michael had a whole suitcase of them when he moved into Mabel's). Michael is an old soul and he loves to sit in the front of the car with Dora whenever she drives the two boys on outings. When Dora passes away and Ellis is confronted by his father's cold and violent nature, Mabel takes Ellis into her protective fold, and he and Michael's relationship evolves to a higher plane. I won't go into more detail, as I'll leave the rest for future readers. Suffice it to say that this was a very beautifully written story, and I thank my Goodreads friend Angela M for inspiring me to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tin Man is a beautiful book. It is a short read but that doesn't make it any less heart breaking. It is hard to describe Tin Man without giving away spoilers and my advice is if you're interested in Tin Man try to avoid any synopsis that is too detailed - let this book be a surprise to you and you will be grateful for it. Ultimately, Tin Man is a story of love and friendship and its complications. The book is told from different perspectives, but the perspectives are easy to follow and gives the book depth. The different perspectives also allows you to see the characters different points of view. When I began the book, I thought it would be a story of Ellis mourning his wife and the story of how he lost her but it is so much more than that. That story alone would be heartbreaking, but what emerges from Tin Man is so much more.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is a highly recommended emotionally powerful story of first loves and a love triangle. It is about love, friendship, loss, and survival. The first part of the narrative is set in 1996 and is told through Ellis Judd's point-of-view in the third person. Ellis is a 45-year-old widower who works the night shift in a car plant in Oxford in 1996. He is still mourning the death of his wife, Annie, five years earlier. Even before that, though, he is grieving his father forcing him to leave school and abandon all hope of becoming an artist years ago, right after his mother died. He is also grieving the loss of his friend, Michael. Ellis, Annie and Michael were inseparable, until Michael abruptly left for London. For me this quote packed a powerful emotional reaction: "Billy came out and saw him looking up with tears frozen before they could fall. And he wanted to say to Billy, I'm just trying to hold it all together, that's all. He wanted to say that because he had never been able to say that to anyone, and Billy might be a good person to say it to. But he couldn't." Have you ever been going through something extremely hard and wanted to tell someone "I'm just trying to hold it all together?" I know that feeling and anyone who has ever experienced something so hard and dark and overwhelming will immediately relate to Ellis' feelings. The second part of the narrative is set in 1989 and is from the first person point-of-view of Michael's journal entries. As much as Ellis loved Annie, his friend Michael loved him. They met as 12-year-old boys and were inseparable as they helped and supported each other. Michael's story is that of a gay man facing the AIDS crisis as a former lover is dying, and it covers his return to his two friends in Oxford. A copy of a Van Gogh sunflower painting, as indicated by the cover, also plays a role in the story. Ellis's mother loved it and won a copy in a raffle when pregnant with Ellis. She shared her love of art with Ellis and Michael. There is no question that Tin Man is a beautifully written novel, eloquent and emotional. The complex relationship between the characters and the inner emotional lives of Ellis and Michael are explored, but not fully developed. The narrative is not linear, especially with Ellis, and jumps around in time and subject matter. Some of the gaps in the story and the timeline must be filled in through supposition by the reader. Occasionally these leaps were challenging to follow. Still, this is a superb and stunning novel that offers several memorable quotes. 4.5 Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Publishing Group.
Taylor Collier More than 1 year ago
“There's something about first love, isn't there? she said. It's untouchable to those who played no part in it. But it's the measure of all that follows.” 
At 200 (small) pages, Tin Man packs a punch equal to a much larger book. Sarah Winman writes a story about two young boys and their evolving relationship through the years. She does an excellent job of exploring the complexities and intricacies of varying relationships we can experience. The representation is a refreshing take on how delicate and complicated it is to love someone. This aspect of the book was a major win and there were many quote gems throughout the book. 
“And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.” 
I'm usually a big fan of shorter books but Tin Man fell flat for me. While the subject matter is relevant and insightful, the varying writing styles took away from what could have been a greatly moving book. I realize that I am in the minority with my opinion, but overall, I felt discombobulated and lost for a majority of the story. It took me a bit to grasp the writing style and get into the flow, for the first 25% I had no idea where Winman was going with the story. There were gaps in the timeline and lots of jumping around; many times, I had to flip back a few pages and re-read, thinking I had missed something. I read a review that said "it reads like the thoughts in someone's head" and like a stream of consciousness, it doesn't make a lot of sense to other people. The dialogue wasn't written as a conversation; rather it was as if someone were relaying the conversation after it had taken place. 
Overall, the whole book had a very heavy, despondent feel, but I think that was the author's purpose. She shows the raw and painful side of love, but also the healing powers it is capable of. I really appreciate the inclusion of LGBTQ relationships, I just wish the book as a whole had impacted me the same way it did for others. 
“I haven't cried. But sometimes I feel as if my veins are leaking, as if my body is overwhelmed, as if I'm drowning from the inside.” 
Thank you so much to Putnam Books for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. It is a pleasure to share my thoughts and feelings with my fellow bookworms.
Kaleena More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful tale about first love, friendship, and the ebbs and flows of life. This book packs a lot into its 224 pages and details the instant and deep friendship between Ellis and Michael. This is not a linear story, and there are differing perspectives. There are not any quotation marks for dialog, which in combination with the stream of consciousness style of writing may not be for every reader. But it works so well with this story. The prose shifts ever so slightly depending on the point of view and time period: the present is almost choppy and disjointed, while the past is more flowing and flowery prose (barring when Ellis' father is present). The monotonous and minutiae of life are highlighted in almost every line; little things at the time hold more meaning later when we recollect them. I am so glad that I stuck with this book. I will admit that I was frustrated and confused the first 12% of the book, but it slowly won me over. By the time I neared the end of Michael's narrative, I saw the beauty that Winman crafted. While we experience life in a linear fashion, we also experience life somewhat in reverse through recollection and relationships gain new meaning with additional information. This is a unique and refreshing read.