by David Wroblewski
I've been reading and reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It started out quite a compelling story, but halfway through I started to loose interest; it was still good, but didn't grip me as much. The writing style became a little boring to me. And I think it was also because I kept thinking about what was coming. I read too many reviews of this one before approaching it; several suggested that it was a modern retelling of Hamlet. At first I didn't see that in the narrative, but once the scene in the rain came up, I started to notice parallels and then couldn't help predicting future events, which unfolded pretty much as I expected them to. The final tragedy was more twisted and complex than I expected, but had the same end result. So to avoid giving another reader the same experience, I'll try not to tell too much here (although perhaps I have already).
So here's the gist of it: Edgar Sawtelle was born mute, on a farm where his family raised dogs. Extraordinary dogs, a completely made-up breed that was based on intelligence and response, not appearance- dogs that were remarkably receptive to human communication and direction. Edgar helped his mother train the dogs, using hand signals; his other main task was to give the new puppies names, searched out of a thick dictionary. Then his uncle showed up on the farm, and had frequent arguments and fights with his father, results of conflict stretching back through the years they grew up together. One day his father died in what appeared to be a freak accident. Grief-stricken, Edgar came to strongly resent the presence of his uncle on the farm. He began to suspect his uncle guilty of his father's death, but his attempts to prove it turned disastrous and Edgar fled the farm with three young dogs. They ran off in the woods, living a vagabond existence, scrabbling for survival. Eventually, Edgar realized he can't keep running, and the desire to get revenge on his uncle made him return to the farm, with every hope of a confrontation.
That's really just the bare bones of the story, there's so much more involved (how else do you get 500+ pages?) A bitter family entanglement, something of a murder mystery, and lots and lots of dogs. A few of the chapters are even narrated from a dog's point of view, which was very interesting. Sound appealing? give it a try. You might be unable to put this book down.
Rating: 2/5 ......... 566 pages, 2008
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