Jun 15, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski

I didn't really want to read this book but it was a book club choice and therefore difficult to avoid, but the only copy I could find was $25.95 and my theoretical limit has been $10.00 or so for years. Reluctantly, I finally put my $25.95 down and took the damn thing home to read.

Wow. Surprise of the year. Decade even. I was engaged from the first page to the last. For me this was a most unlikely story. Whatever convinced the author to think someone would be interested?

The story line is very strange, almost weird - yet it is written with so much skill even a city bred apartment dweller with two pet cats would enjoy it. Whoa. [Enjoy] is too strong a word. [Learn from it] is a better choice. The author is an excellent wordsmith, but still the text was significantly bloated with extraneous ventures.

The story line weaves many ideas and situations into a believable [boy-dog-forest] tale of troubles. Eventually it smooths out and becomes a [Huck Finn-Horatio Alger-White Fang- Boy Scout] kind of book. These ingredients (at first) seem harmless but they are decidedly not. The book is laced with murder, hardship, disaster, friendship, physical challenges, familial love-hate relationships, and through the entire story, a vivid and accurate picture of small towns, family farms, dog breeders, and the variations of nature in northern Wisconsin.

If I had any real complaint about this book it would be that there are too many elements and several were not essential to the story.

  • I also found it interesting that the boy, from birth to about 14 years of age, had not one friend other than a canine. Not even one?
  • He was born mute yet he and his mother were able to read 'sign'. I don't think it was mentioned where this ability came from?
  • Did the mother learn it somewhere and then teach the boy? Probably.
  • Did the mother and boy develop a sign language that only they understood? The book never clarified.

Despite these unanswered questions and a few others, the book was one of the most compelling that I've read this year.

On a scale of one to ten, I give it a 9.