Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dogs of Babel

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
288 pages
Published June 2004 by Little, Brown and Company

I read this book as part of The Literate Housewife's Dog Days of Summer.

The book opens with the death of Lexy Iverson. She's fallen from a tree in her backyard while her husband, Paul, is at work, with only their dog, Lorelei, as a witness. Paul is devastated but can't help but wonder if the police pronouncement that the death was an accident is correct. Did Lexy commit suicide? Paul notices a few things in the next couple of days to make him believe that maybe she did. Only Lorelei knows and she's not talking. But Paul, who happens to be a professor of linguistics, wonders if maybe she can't be taught to talk so that he can get some answers. He's heard some stories previously that leads him to believe it might be possible so he takes a sabbatical and begins trying to teach Lorelei to speak. At the same time, Paul looks back on his relationship with Lexy.

Two pages in, this book had already grabbed my attention. Then I got to the talking dog business. And I began to wonder exactly what it was that originally convinced me to pick this book up some months ago. "Is this supposed to be a black comedy?" I wondered. Nope, it's completely serious and more than once I almost put the book down. But the book alternates chapters between the look back at Paul and Lexy's relationship and the teaching-dog-to-talk chapters. And I was enjoying the relationship chapters so I stuck it out. Then Paul became involved with some "Very Bad People" who do surgery on dogs to try to make them talk. Yes, you read that right; there is a whole organization of people doing this. And it did get a little tense during some of those parts. But it was still strange. As was Paul's fascination with a television psychic. And the part where Lexy was making masks for the families of dead people. Yep, the more I write about it, the more bizarre this book sounds.

Yet, I can't say that I didn't like it. I did find the relationship between Paul and Lexy interesting. I understood a love so deep that Paul would do anything to try to find some answers. And Parkhurst deals with Lexy's mental illness beautifully. But I can't think of a single person to whom I would recommend this book. Seriously, how would I sell it? "Hey, you wanna read a book about teaching dogs to talk?"



16 comments:

  1. The cover of this book is striking and I've been meaning to pick it up. It does sound very strange. From your review, I gather it seems to be the effect of grief on people.

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  2. Huh. As intriguing as the beginning of this book sounds, I may have to skip it. Great review though!

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  3. I'm sorry you didn't like this book as much as I did. Paul's discovery of the slippery slope he was on with his own mental health made this book for me. It is definitely a bizarre book and not for anyone who cannot handle reading about cruelty to animals. There were definitely some rough patches there.

    Thank you so much for taking part in my very first theme week! It means so much to me! Thanks for making this week even more special and fun!

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  4. I read a few pages of this one awhile back but thought it was corny. I think the premise is interesting. I would have loved for Nicole Brown's dog to have talked after the whole OJ murder thing but no cigar.

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  5. I might like it since I would love it if my dog could talk!

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  6. I like the title, though I'm not sure I would enjoy the story.

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  7. Did not like this book. Hope your taste might be better than mine.

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  8. This cover is different from the once I have seen so far. There are different views on this one! I will have to read and see if I like it :)

    Sorry it didn't work for you!

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  9. Huh, this is one of those books I've owned for a few years and haven't read yet. It still sounds interesting, but a little strange. I hope that it doesn't freak me out when I get around to reading it.

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  10. I liked your review of this book, but I think this is one that I will let fall by the wayside.

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  11. Good review. I think this is one that I would have to leaf through at a bookstore or library before deciding whether I'd want to read it (as opposed to buying it or reserving it sight unseen). It does sound like an unusual book, for sure.

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  12. As bizarre as this sounds I am intigued. When I'm in the mood for a completely original book I'll have to pick this up.

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  13. This book sounds really intriguing! It's definitely going on my list. Bizarre can definitely be good.

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  14. I think it's such a beautiful love story that in the end we can forgive the odd little sidelines the man gets into in his desperation to figure out what really happened. I loved this story so much when I read the book from the library, that my son gave me a gift copy.

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  15. Sandra, that was so nice of your son! I hate when I've checked out something from the library that I love and wish I would have bought. Then I can't justify buying a book I've already read. But I might just have to put them on my gift wish list!

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  16. Okay, sounds a little off to me. I think I'll skip it.

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