Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This was Oprah’s book club pick a few years ago and I got the impression from her shows that it was about the bond between dogs and their owners, so it was added to my “to-read” list. It is a thick book. I get intimidated by thick books because I have ADD and don’t know if I can concentrate on one book for that long.

When people asked me what the book was about it was hard for me to say. Even after finishing it, it is hard for me to say without giving anything away.

So here is a review from Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. A literary thriller with commercial legs, this stunning debut is bound to be a bestseller. In the backwoods of Wisconsin, the Sawtelle family—Gar, Trudy and their young son, Edgar—carry on the family business of breeding and training dogs. Edgar, born mute, has developed a special relationship and a unique means of communicating with Almondine, one of the Sawtelle dogs, a fictional breed distinguished by personality, temperament and the dogs' ability to intuit commands and to make decisions. Raising them is an arduous life, but a satisfying one for the family until Gar's brother, Claude, a mystifying mixture of charm and menace, arrives. When Gar unexpectedly dies, mute Edgar cannot summon help via the telephone. His guilt and grief give way to the realization that his father was murdered; here, the resemblance to Hamlet resonates. After another gut-wrenching tragedy, Edgar goes on the run, accompanied by three loyal dogs. His quest for safety and succor provides a classic coming-of-age story with an ironic twist. Sustained by a momentum that has the crushing inevitability of fate, the propulsive narrative will have readers sucked in all the way through the breathtaking final scenes. (June)
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Basically it is the story of Edgar Sawtelle, just like the title says. Edgar is born without the ability to speak. He grows up on a farm where they breed dogs. His grandfather started breeding the dogs and now his father has given Edgar his first litter to raise. They are a different kind of breeder because they raise the puppies and make sure they are super-trained before giving them up. Sawtelle dogs are the best and they do a lot to keep up with their reputation and continue to breed better and smarter dogs. Most of this is epitomized by Edgar’s lifelong companion Almondine.

But Edgar’s father dies suddenly and very unexpectedly and Edgar and his mother have a hard time dealing with the tragedy. Edgar’s father’s brother returns to help with the farm and worms his way into Edgar’s mother’s affections. But Edgar knows there is something not right with Claude. After an unfortunate event, Edgar flees the farm with the dogs he has been raising.

They are on the run together and embark on a kind of crazy adventure. They have to learn to survive on their own. I can’t really describe it, but that is the most interesting part of the book.

But I did not like the ending. Literally until about the last 3 pages you do not know what is going to happen. It is good because the last 100-200 pages just fly because there is so much going on and you are just dying to know what happens. Then all of a sudden it ends and not in a happy way. I was very disturbed and mad.

But it is still a good book. If you like dogs, you’ll probably like this book.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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