- Fizzy Thoughts: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski
2008
576 pages

I’m going to cheat a bit and use the stock book description:

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents (Gar and Trudy) on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm--and into Edgar's mother's affections.

Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires--spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs (Essay, Baboo and Tinder) who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

I think this is a great summary of the book, but the phrase “fictional breed of dog” is one I find a bit odd. Yes, it’s a breed the author made up, but the whole story is fictional...couldn’t they have just said "their own breed", or "the Sawtelle dogs?"

Despite my disgust with all things Oprah, and most things dog, I loved this book. I found it to be beautifully written and descriptive. It captured me so completely that I read the entire book in 24 hours (and yes, that’s with a full night’s sleep). Plus, I got all teary-eyed during the doggy sections. Go figure. In fact, the few chapters that were told from Almondine's point of view were some of my favorites.
The book does require some suspension of disbelief (but then, I tend to like books like that). Edgar is quite resourceful for a 15 year old mute fending for himself in the wilds of Wisconsin. And the dogs are scary smart. But if you can get past that, I'd argue that the book is worth reading for the language alone. And for Edgar. And the dogs, even if you don't like dogs. And even for the ending.

*****WARNING*****WARNING*****WARNING*****WARNING*****

I'm going to discuss the ending now, so go away if you haven't read, or don't plan to read, the book.

I've heard people quibble about the ending...that there was no resolution, or why did it have to end that way. Or even, what did the dogs do?? And normally, I'm all about resolution and the happy ending. But this ending just felt right. (And really, I could care less that the book is supposedly based on Hamlet and it needed to end that way.) It's kind of like the end to No Country for Old Men (the movie). It needed to end that way. Sometimes good doesn't always triumph over evil. And as one commenter on amazon said, who says literature has to be happy? I'm sure there are many people who felt that after 576 pages they deserved a happy ending. I would argue that the dogs got a happy ending, whatever it is you think they do (I love how the ending forces the reader to imagine).

Really, I think the book is beautiful just the way it stands.

8 comment(s):

bermudaonion said...

I don't know what to think of this book - it seems people either love it or hate it. I want to read it, but I won't pay full price for it.

Ti said...

I broke down and bought a copy of it from Costco for $14. Have yet to open it yet.

Dar said...

I just really breezed down to see if you liked the book-I stopped after the Warning part. Looks like you liked it-I hope to get to it soon. Yeh right-my reading list is atrocious right now. Great review though-on the parts I read. lol.

Ladytink_534 said...

Lol. I just finished reading another review on this. I'm a little irritated with Oprah too but I might give this one a chance.

softdrink said...

I lucked out and my boss lent it to me, otherwise I seriously doubt I would have bought it. And because some people hate the book, I don't think I could tell someone it's worth paying full price for. $14 bucks, though...that sounds about right. ;-)

LisaMM said...

Not a dog person, really???? I would have pegged you for a canine lover.

I read the whole review because I'm not sure I'll get to this soon (if ever!), even though I AM a dog person. It's just so loooooong and I've read a couple of blah reviews on it. I keep picking it up and putting it back down in the store, totally undecided.

But you make it sound so good...

softdrink said...

Lisa, even though it's long, I flew through it. I think chartroose mentioned she's stalled, though.

trish said...

Well, I might just pick up this book. But we'll see. :D

I'm starting on The Art of Racing in the Rain RIGHT NOW. EEE!!!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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