Title: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Author: David Wroblewski
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: Because Oprah told me to! Not really, I honestly didn’t know it was on her list until I had started it. Just for some reason whenever I saw this on the shelf I wanted to read it, So some sort of combination between the cover and the title attracted me – who knows?
Where I Obtained the Book: At my library.
Synopsis: Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm-and into Edgar's mother's affections. Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires-spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward. David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes-the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain-create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.
Review: This is a modernish retelling of Hamlet set in rural (1950’s?) Wisconsin in a family dog kennel. As a Midwestern, Shakespeare enjoying, dog loving reader, this book was great. Hamlet is a classic for a reason and the author stays true to the tale. Plot aside, I found myself just enjoying the writing. This book had a good flow to it and spent a week working through it (which is quite slow for me) because I didn’t want it to end.
The weirdest thing I got from this book is it changed my interaction with my dog. The location of the story, their Denmark, is the Sawtelle dog kennels. A place where genetically superior and highly intelligent dogs are bred over the generations. Dog training is central to our young protagonists life, and thus to the plot. Of course we have all the family drama between brothers, and between fathers, uncles, and sons. Can life be explained by the relationship between a boy and his dog? I think David Wroblewski makes a good casefor it.
The only downside was not the author’s fault. Hamlet is a tragedy and consequently this book is too. After spending so much time with young Edgar I was hoping for a triumphant and happy conclusion all the way to the end; while knowing it wasn’t to be. That is a hard pill to swallow after being so emotionally involved. Hopefully the author doesn’t take another ten years for book two. FWIW, Tom Hanks has bought the movie rights to this book, so hopefully we can see it on the big screen soon.
Author Biography: David Wroblewski is the author of the internationally bestselling novel The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle, a 2008 Oprah Book Club pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, winner of the 2008 Colorado Book Award, Indie Choice Best Author Discovery award, and the Midwest Bookseller Association's Choice award. David holds a degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers. Over the years he has lived in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Austin, Texas. He currently makes his home in Colorado with the writer Kimberly McClintock, their dog Lola, and their woefully undisciplined cat, Mitsou.
New York Times
FYI: The author on the Today Show