Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle as an ebook from eReader. I didn't know much about it before I bought it. It seems like one of those books that, out of nowhere, I started hearing about all over the place. Holy cow do people love this book. In the New York Times, Janet Maslin called it "the most enchanting debut novel of the summer." It was one of Oprah's picks and she has "a webcast event" with the author coming up on Jan. 26th.

At first I don't think I was giving this book the attention it needed and deserved. At times I found myself feeling a little restless or distracted reading it. I blame myself—I didn't correctly match the book to my mood. Also, it probably wasn't a good book for me to read on my Treo because I usually reserve those books for short reading sessions when I'm killing time.

I ended up setting this aside for a few days while I read something else. During that time I unexpectedly found myself thinking about Edgar and the dogs, wondering where things were going. Once I gave it some dedicated time, I really enjoyed The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents 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 who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

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