Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

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 remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family's traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.

Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.

Filled with breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a meditation on the limits of language and what lies beyond, a brilliantly inventive retelling of an ancient story, and an epic tale of devotion, betrayal, and courage in the American heartland.

My Review:
This book created a lot of hype in our area as it takes place in a little town called Mellen, which is about 30 miles from where I live.  I have had this title on my "must read" list since Oprah selected it as one of her picks.  Now that I work in Mellen, I've been even more drawn to this book than before.  It's taken a couple of years to convince my book club to read this one, but perseverance won out, and we read this for our summer selection.

This book really had many themes to it, so please bear with me as I write this review.  The one thing that follows through the entire novel, is the Sawtelle's love for dogs, and the quest for an animal that is a breed unlike any other.  Since Edgar's grandfather started the family business of dog-breeding, Gar, Edgar's father, worked diligently to perfect the process.  From selecting the parents for breeding, intensive training, to placing the dogs with the right owners, the Sawtelle's found their business to be both rewarding and fulfilling.

One day Edgar witnesses an event that will change his life forever.  He uncovers one of many secrets within this novel that start him on a journey into the wilderness.  I enjoyed so many aspects of this novel, but my book club had an opposite take on it.  Most of the ladies were frustrated as they felt there were too many unresolved issues within the novel.  Things that were just left out there and never explained.  One example is the conflict between Gar and Claude.  If you've read the book, maybe you could tell me what the point of contension was between these two brothers?  We couldn't figure it out.  I thought that possibly there was a romance between Trudy and Claude in the past that created some hurt feelings, but I don't recall reading anything to substantiate that.

Within the discussion questions it was mentioned several times that this novel is considered to be a parody of Hamlet.  Most of my group has never read or studied Hamlet, so this fact was certainly lost on us.  So if you are a fan of Hamlet, you should probably pick up this book.

I enjoyed this novel overall, as we follow Edgar on his journey through life.  Since Edgar was not able to speak since he was born, I enjoyed the various communication used in this book.  The amazing communication method between Edgar and the dogs, and even the special sign language that developed with his parents.  With themes of survival, family, and obligations, I found this to be a very enjoyable novel.  If you do not like books that leave too many unanswered questions this one may not be for you.  I still can't help but highly recommend this novel, especially if you love dogs as much as I do.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:     This book is from my personal library and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club discussion. 


bermudaonion said...

A good friend of mine tried to read this right after Oprah picked it and said she couldn't get through it so I dismissed it. It sounds like I should give it a chance.

Ti said...

When Oprah raved about it, I added it to my list and then never got to it. Then a few years ago, I checked out a copy, renewed it 3 times and then returned it unread. Then someone SENT me a copy. Still haven't read it.

Is it a "clear you schedule" type of read? Life changing?

Jo-Jo said...

Kathy: It was a good novel, but not what Oprah talked it up to be.

Ti: I wouldn't say it's a clear your schedule or life changing. I actually thought the dog training parts got bogged down a little so I needed to set it aside and go back to it later. I think it took me over a month to read!

Anonymous said...

I think the too many loose ends would drive me crazy!

Vicki said...

I'm thinking about reading this, since I'm such a big dog lover. Also, Stephen King loved the book, so that makes me want to read it even more. What's putting me off is the page count, 560. I'm not a fan of chunky books, unless it's a King book of course.