November 9, 2008

Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Author's Website

As a pup growing up on a rural farm in northern Wisconsin with Gar and Trudy Sawtelle, Almondine knew she was there for a purpose. She knew something big was about to happen and she searched the house daily looking and listening but her purpose wasn’t revealed until the night Trudy brought home the baby. As Trudy slept with the baby in her arms Almondine stayed near their side ever watchful. That’s when she heard a sound. It was a tiny whispery rasp but when she looked upon the baby he was clearly in distress. The baby had no voice. Almondine knew this was her purpose; to watch over Edgar Sawtelle and become more than just a friend and companion.

For fourteen years the Sawtelle family led a peaceful life raising and training the breed of dog know simply as “The Sawtelle Dogs” until one night Gar returned with his brother Claude. Shortly after he comes to stay, the fights begin between the brothers and Claude leaves the farm for an apartment in town.

On one horrible afternoon Edgar finds his father on the floor of the kennel. He signs one last word to Edgar and passes away. Consumed with grief Edgar tries his best to help his mother run the kennel after Gar’s death but when she’s stricken with pneumonia they’re forced to call upon Claude for help. Little by little Claude insinuates himself into their lives but Edgar’s suspicion grows daily and he’s forced to flee the farm. Edgars travels and long lonely nights convince him the only thing to do is to return to the farm and prove to his mother that Claude is a murderer.

It’s a little hard to put a finger on my feelings on this book. In one way I loved it and in another I was disappointed. As proven true with Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn and other over hyped books, there’s a kind of a let down even though the book is great and I think that’s my problem with this one. If I had read it without all the hype from it becoming an Oprah Book Club selection I think I may have loved it more.

To me the greatest thing about the book is the character development. Edgar quickly becomes a cherished character so much so that I felt a strong maternal tug when he makes decisions that I didn’t agree with. The dogs are written about in such a way you can picture them, with each of their unique traits, just as if they are sitting in front of you.

For the most part the storyline is told incredibly well but in some areas the detail drags on way too long with no clear benefit to writing it that way. Without giving away any spoilers there were also a couple of points that never led anywhere when the anticipation is that it would be an integral part of the story. Furthermore, the ending just wasn’t what I imagined and I was left greatly disappointed by it.

All that being said; I do still recommend this read. It’s a huge book but overall worth the time to read.


Anonymous said...

I have this in my TBR stack, and plan to ignore the huge OPRAH-endorsed sticker on the front :)

Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this one yet, and haven't decided if I will. I've read so many conflicting reviews, I don't know what to think. Thanks for your review!

Unknown said...

I feel like I've heard enough about this book from enough different sources that I almost have to read it, just to keep up my cultural literacy. Most reviewers tend to focus on the book's Hamlet parallel, so it's nice to hear a review that is more character-focused. I like the idea that Edgar's character inspired a maternal protectiveness in you. That's perhaps the best endorsement I've heard yet.