Some friendships come and go, while others work their way inside of you and take hold. Tin Man is the story of one such friendship, begun between Ellis and Michael at 12 years old. Both sensitive and artistic, they avoid their fathers and are enchanted by Ellis's mother, who herself is enchanted by Van Gogh's Sunflowers. What starts as intense companionship evolves into more, until the two boys find themselves at a decision point.
But this is also a story about loss. Ellis is a 45-year-old auto worker, living alone and nursing his flashes of memory. Annie. Michael. The friendship that expanded to enfold the third member, and then closed again, never to allow in a fourth. The story slowly unfolds to reveal the cycles of bonding and breaking that defined their relationships, and how Ellis came to be alone.
Tin Man is a lovely examination of intense friendships, with two characters who feel especially well-drawn and sympathetic and a third who could have used a little more backstory. Nonetheless, part of the charm of this story is in its brevity (and I say this as someone who loves a good long book). The range of emotions, years, and stories conveyed in such a short book is impressive and it manages to have moments of hope and beauty alongside the sadness.
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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.