Tin Man is an emotional character-driven story that opens in the 1960s and follows our two protagonists, Ellis and Michael who have been friends since they were children. But somewhere along the way, the friendship grew into something more.
Then the novel fast-forwards to the mid-1990s, and we learn that Ellis is married to a woman named Annie and Michael is out of the picture. Shifting back and forth between past and present, the author fills in the blanks, complete with agonizing pining, multiple tragedies, and death, rendering this a genuinely heart-wrenching story. I’ve seen this book referred to as “almost a love story” and I feel that’s an excellent description for it because it is definitely NOT a romance; but it is a profound exploration of the strong bonds of friendship.
The first half of the book is told from Ellis’s point of view and the second is told from Michael’s as they drift in and out of each other’s lives. I felt that the dual perspectives really added a depth and richness to the story as we experience both of their viewpoints in relation to the events in their lives.
There really isn’t much of a plot or storyline here — but rather, it’s more of an in-depth, introspective character study/memoir of two people and the bittersweet, complex story of their lives, loves, and losses. The story is at times dreamy and ethereal — almost haunting in places — as we flow in and out of each of the characters’ lives, so in this regard, I found it quite atmospheric and evocative.
Tin Man is a short book, so I can’t say too much about it without spoiling it, but even though it’s short, it packs a considerable punch. It’s a tender, beautiful tale of a first love with lush, lyrical writing that will break your heart in places. The story deals with some hard-hitting topics such as grief, longing, loss, sadness, regret, and loneliness.
It’s worth mentioning that there are no quotation marks used in the novel nor are there any chapter breaks so that, along with the switching back and forth between past and present (which isn’t always distinctive) may prove to be challenging for some folks. It definitely takes some getting used to.
Still, if you enjoy meandering character-driven novels, then I feel Tin Man is well worth a read as it is a beautiful, deeply emotional story and deals with many important topics such as friendship, desire, fitting in, family, and of course, grief and loss. There’s a lot going on here for such a small book and I don’t think it’s a story that I’ll forget about anytime soon.