Friday, March 6, 2009

Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This book completes the 2009 Chunkster Challenge for me. I only signed up to read one chunkster. I'm really glad I chose this one, too. There is so much to say about this book. As usual, I found myself wishing that this was a book club book so I would be able to discuss it with a group of people. The book is really long, but it doesn't take that long to read it. The only complaints I've heard from some people is the fact that they feel the author could have left out some of the information on dog training. Surprisingly I wasn't bothered by that. I didn't feel like it was too much, at all. However, I did feel like the time that Edgar spent alone in the woods when he ran away was just way too long. However, that is a small complaint about an otherwise wonderful book.

The book tells the story of Edgar Sawtelle and his mother and father who raise a special breed of dogs on their Wisconsin farm. Edgar is born mute. He's not deaf, but he has never been able to make a sound. As a result, he develops a gift for observation. He sees things that others don't. I'm not just talking about the surreal here, although there is some of that. I mean that he watches people and understands things that many speaking people don't take the time to because they're too worried about what they're going to say next. As a result of his muteness and his being an only child, Edgar also develops a very strong bond with Almondine, the matriarch of the Sawtelle dogs. She has watched over Edgar ever since the day he was brought home.

Things begin to change for Edgar when his estranged uncle comes back to the family farm to stay with them. It's evident right away that there are unresolved issues between Edgar's dad and his uncle. We're not told what they are right away. Instead, we see things as they unfold just as Edgar sees them. I don't really want to go into too much more of the plot for fear of ruining the experience for others. Suffice it to say, this book has a little bit of everything. There are beautiful descriptions of the natural beauty of the land. There are secrets, lies and betrayals. There is a little magical realism, which seems perfectly plausible in this story. I didn't really see how the book was going to end until I was almost there. Some critics have made comparisons to Hamlet, which I can definitely see. I am left with a couple of questions regarding Edgar's mom. After reading a couple of interviews with the author, I discovered that he wanted it that way. He didn't want to tie things up neatly with a bow. He wanted the reader to be able to draw their own conclusions about some things. If you haven't read this one yet, you may just want to give it a try. It's well worth it.


JoAnn said...

I've been hesitant to read this - not really sure why, but your review has me convinced. Sounds like it would be a good choice for my bookclub when it comes out in paperback.

Lisa said...

Joann, I was hesitant about this one, as well. But, when I signed up for the Chunkster Challenge, I thought I'd go ahead and give it a try. It would be an excellent book for a book group to discuss. I'll be anxious to see what you think.

Literary Feline said...

Like JoAnn, I've been really hesitant about picking this one up too. It does sound good though. Maybe I can talk one of my online groups into giving it a try. It sounds like a great one for discussion. Thanks for the great review, Lisa!

Lisa said...

literary feline, It is great for discussion! It's not a perfect book, but it's well worth the chunkster size.