Monday, September 21, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
562 pages
Published September 2009 by Harper Collins

Edgar, born mute, grows up the only child of parents who raise and train a very particular type of dog on a farm in the countryside of Wisconsin. Despite his handicap, life is very good for Edgar who communicates with his family and the dogs in sign language. But when tragedy strikes, sign language is not enough. Then Edgar is forced to flee the farm with only three of his yearling pups. Learning to survive, Edgar comes of age during his time on the run. Ultimately, Edgar must decide whether to leave home for good or return and try to reveal the truth of what happened on the farm.

This is Wroblewski's first novel. It has received almost universal praise for both the story and Wroblewski's writing style. He writes without sentimentality (despite including a handicapped child, pets, and death) while really making the reader feel the joy and pain of his characters. Wroblewski's writing is beautiful.

 But, once again, I felt like there was just too much of it, particularly when explaining the training, upkeep and record keeping of the dogs. And it felt like Wroblewski tried to incorporate every trick that might be taught in a writing class; he incorporates elements of Homer's "Odyssey" and Shakespeare's "Hamlet." It might be, too, that I have just read too many "dog" books lately, having recently read Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing In The Rain" and Carolyn Parkhurst's "The Dogs Of Babel." I enjoyed the beginning of the book and the last third is tense and shocking. All in all, I liked this book a lot. I just don't know that I would call it a classic.

21 comments:

  1. Maybe this is a case of the hype informing your final verdict? That happens to me a lot - I'll have heard that something is AMAZING, and then read for myself (and most often, like it!), but I won't feel like it shook the earth.
    I've been meaning to read this...for...forever or so? I should give it a try. Great review. Your honesty = refreshing. :)

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  2. I have been waiting patiently for this book to be released in paperback. I am hoping to read it over Thanksgiving break (or at least start it).

    I liked your concise, honest review!

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  3. THanks for the honest review. I was working as a bookstore manager when this came out and was HUGE! and everyone in the world wanted to read it so i , of course, take the other route and wanted nothing to do with it. j/k
    I have heard from some it's the best book of last year. Hmm? Maybe I will pick it up sometime.

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  4. Thanks for posting about this book because I have it on my bookshelf unread and wasn't sure about it. I liked how you discussed the pros and cons of the book and how you wouldn't call it a classic. I will read this book at some point and from the way you describe it I will probably be skimming some sections of it. Great post! Cheers!!

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  5. Stephanie, nope, not worth the hype. But very little could live up to the hype this got. As I said, it is beautifully written and the story is unique. But I felt like I was getting hit over the head with the dog training pieces.

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  6. Thanks for the honest review. I know I will be reading this book, but I have been waiting for it to come out on paperback also. I might even read this one with my book club as the book takes place close to where I live. Ashland is about a half hour from Mellen and I think it would just be fun to read about places that you actually know.

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  7. There is a lot for a book club to discuss in this book, Jo-Jo.

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  8. GReat review. I haven't added this to my wish list yet, but I'm thinking about it. I have a hard time with books that have bad things happening to dogs.

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  9. I've heard great things about this, but I never read books with dogs, in case it is sad!!

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  10. I would not call it a classic, but I did like it. Great, honest review.

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  11. I loved this line:

    And it felt like Wroblewski tried to incorporate every trick that might be taught in a writing class; he incorporates elements of Homer's "Odyssey" and Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

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  12. I'm still on the fence with this one. I've heard good things about it, though.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  13. I've been undecided about whether to give this one a try...I am going to add it to my list (I liked your review enough to add it!) I love dog stories and coming-of-age stories...

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  14. I'm on the fence about this one too. I tend to like Oprah's picks but the plot of this book just doesn't seem that exciting to me, plus it's gotten a lot of so-so reviews. Thanks for your input!

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  15. This book is one of the books that I plan to read for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge.

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  16. I loved this one...but I'm not sure it will be a classic either!

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  17. I felt like the book was full of lovely language but short on true plot. I think that's what you are saying too? However, there are one or two passages that are among the very best passages I've ever read -- especially the one about the dog toward the end. Amazing in fact.

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  18. This looks so good.... I should be putting this on the wish list

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  19. I am actually impressed with myself for reading this book all the way through. It didn't shake my world - in fact the Hamlet references slipped right by me until I read reviews after - then I was like, "oh yea, huh"

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  20. I'm kind of glad that you gave this an okay review - now I don't have to worry about rushing to read it until next Dog Days of Summer. :) I need some space between. I was going to listen to his talk at the NBF, but I ended up going to get something to eat with some of the gang.

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