The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

Hardcover, 2009

Call number




Ecco (2009), Edition: 1st, 562 pages


A tale reminiscent of "Hamlet" that also celebrates the alliance between humans and dogs follows speech-disabled Wisconsin youth Edgar, who bonds with three yearling canines and struggles to prove that his sinister uncle is responsible for his father's death.

Media reviews

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a dutiful procession through the main events of [Hamlet]. The Mousetrap scene, in which Edgar trains his dogs to act out his father’s murder in front of Claude, is marvelous—Wroblewski loves writing about dogs and he’s great at it—but the other pages are still covered by translucent drafter’s blueprints. Here’s Polonius, the meddler, here’s Laertes, the avenging son, and so on. (The Laertes figure isn’t introduced until page 489 and he’s as puzzled as the rest of us about why he’s supposed to kill a fourteen-year-old boy.) Wroblewski is only at pains to apply himself when there’s a chance his characters might become complicated and unsympathetic.
7 more
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, all 566 pages, is surprising and rewarding. It's worth savoring, both its story and its storytelling.
High literary art from a talent that bears watching.
Publishers Weekly
This is the best book I've read in a long time.
Kirkus Reviews
[A] spellbinding first novel . . .
Kirkus Reviews
The novel succeeds admirably in telling its story from a dog's-eye view that finds the human world very strange indeed.
Library Journal
Ultimately liberating, though tragic and heart-wrenching, this book is unforgettable; overwhelmingly recommended for all libraries.
Publishers Weekly
Sustained by a momentum that has the crushing inevitability of fate, the propulsive narrative will have readers sucked in all the way through the breathtaking final scenes.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiler69
Edgar Sawtelle is a mute boy who lives in a symbiotic relationship with the dogs his family has been breeding since his grandfather's time. The first half of the novel describes the struggles of Edgar's parents Trudy and Gar to have children, and their loss of a baby before Edgar's birth. Almondine is his constant companion, and she is the only Sawtelle dog living in the house with the family, though she also has an active role in helping train the younger dogs. The dogs are not only the the Sawtelles' source of income, but are also loved much like extended members of the family. We gradually learn how this unusually perceptive breed of canines came into being through the devotion of Edward's grandfather, who had a vision of the ideal companion for man. When he is old enough, Edgar is given his own litter of pups to deliver and care for, a task which he takes to heart.

The first sings of trouble arrive when Edgar's uncle Claude comes back to the family home, freshly out of prison. A hard drinker, he and his older, more responsible brother Gar constantly fight and bicker, and Claude leaves after a physical altercation. Things take a tragic turn when Gar dies very suddenly while Edgar helplessly looks on. Shortly after, Trudy falls very ill, leaving Edgar with all the responsibilities, and though he struggles to make things work, a serious incident forces them to call Claude to help care for the dogs. To Edgar's utter dismay, Trudy and Claude quickly become lovers, even as Edgar has reasons to suspects his uncle of murder. Things go from bad to much, much worse, until Edgar has no choice but to flee the farm along with a number of dogs from his litter. Together they embarks on a long and difficult journey, during which the fugitives must hide away in the woods and are constantly on the brink of starvation. Edgar's journey with the dogs constitutes the better part of the second half of the novel, and seemed at times overly long. But with hindsight, I now feel that it was necessary to establish just how deeply the boy and his dogs come to rely on each other while Edgar encourages the dogs to make their own choices.

While I was initially disappointed with the denouement, it also made the tale that much more poignant, and revealed, if there was still any lingering doubt, that these dogs were not mere companions, but characters in their own right. I should say that I decided I liked this book before I even read the first line, simply because I knew that dogs were prominent in the story, and in that sense I was amply gratified. This is the kind of tale that stays with you and leaves countless affecting moments to savour long after the last words have been read.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Plot wise, this is Shakespeare's Hamlet - except brought into the modern era (1950s and 60s) and in rural Wisconsin. However, other than plot, this bears no resemblance to Shakespeare. Rather than being concise like Shakespeare and telling the story in about 100 pages, this author takes nearly 600. Despite these excess pages, the author doesn't really reach the psychological depths that Hamlet does. For some reason, he inundates the reader with mundane details that have nothing to do with progressing the storyline (for instance, a long narrative about the previous owner of the Sawtelle place, which never reveals itself to be necessary to the plot). Also, despite the lengthy and unnecessary detailing in the beginning of the book, questions are still left unanswered at the end of the book. The main characters are dog breeders and there are pages and pages and pages of descriptions about dogs, dog breeding, and dog training. I found this incredibly boring and at first chalked it up to not being a dog person. However, I realized that 1) if I was reading a novel that gave this much detail about cats, I would still be bored out of my brains and 2) this author had a way of writing that, to me, made an encounter with a ghost seem like the dullest thing that could possibly happen to a person. There were a few chapters written from the perspective of the family dog(s), which was just way too cheesy for me (I could deal with a dead mother narrating a chapter in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying because that revealed important details that would otherwise be missing, but these dog-narrated chapters didn't add much to the story). Overall, the book was interminably long and excessively dull. I definitely would not recommend - go read Hamlet instead (or even re-read Hamlet instead).… (more)
LibraryThing member ladycato
I'm so glad I bought this for only $4 at Goodwill.

This book garnered a lot of attention last fall when Oprah selected it for her book club. I can see why it merited such attention. The writing is beautiful. It tells the story of the Sawtelle family and their own special breed of dogs. Trudy and Gar's son Edgar is born mute, but as he grows they develop their own sign-language - one that their unusually intelligent dogs also pick up. But when Gar's brother Claude returns to the farm and Gar dies soon afterward, Edgar is left struggling. Bad things happen. Edgar flees into the wilderness. Etc.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of book that makes the whole literary fiction genre look bad. The writing is beautiful, yes, but it's also overwritten. Half the book could have been edited away and the story would have remained the same. It took two-hundred pages for any genuine plot momentum to begin. When Edgar fled the farm, the story became much more interesting to me - his survival, Henry, and the tension leading up to the ending.

And then the ending happened. Um, what? I can understand wanting to make the ending non-cliche, but Wroblewski's ending is heavily contrived and completely unsatisfying. I didn't expect a happy ending, but the ending he wrote is just stupid. It made the entire 562-pages feel like a complete waste.

Sorry. Pretty writing does not make up for lousy storytelling.
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LibraryThing member mikitchenlady
I would give this book five stars, except for how it ended (which I won't discuss so I don't spoil it for others). This is a rich, layered, complicated story, which deserves more than one read to fully appreciate. Edgar reverberates with the lonely part of myself, who feels that people just don't understand me sometimes, although I can speak and am not nearly as isolated as he is. His character rings true -- his frustration and anger feel so right for an early teen, as do many of the other characters of the book (Gar, Trudy, Doc and Glen Papineau). And the dogs are, well...suffiice it to say that every dog lover should certainly read this book, as should many others (the Henrys of the world). My only other criticism of the book would be that I just didn't understand Claude well enough to see how he was motivated to make the choices he made -- perhaps the second read would tell me more.

Should be a part of any high school library, and perhaps considered by the language arts department for use in instruction, particularly since teens need 20th and 21st century alternatives in literature.
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LibraryThing member Peterabun
What a disappointment! I had read several good reviews before I started this book and maybe my expectations were too high. This book never approached its hype -- and I started reading it before Oprah jumped on it.The characters (other than Edgar) are never fully developed. Claude, the antagonist, is but a slippery shadow. We never even come close to understanding his motivations. I don't mind using my imagination to fill in some blanks, but to have Claude so ill-defined leaves the reader to write the book!I kept waiting for this book to capture me and draw me in. It continued to push me away. I had to force myself to finish it. Of course I was hoping the ending would bring things to clarity and make me say, "wow!" Never happened.Someone likened this book to "The Life of Pi." I have been looking for another "Life of Pi" since I read it and this is not it! "The Life of Pi" is lyrical, mystical, magical and just downright fun and funny! This book just disappoints.… (more)
LibraryThing member Wova4
While I think that there is a great book hidden somewhere in this story, the text has left me with mixed opinions. Wroblewski is at his best writing about rural Wisconsin or the Sawtelle dogs, but grafting these interesting things to the plot of Hamlet served only as a distraction.

If one is going to attempt a retelling of Hamlet, perhaps the only way to get away with it is when it's a first book. I don't understand why Wroblewski chose to use the Hamlet plot so plainly, yet strip out most of the nuances of the original. Plots come easy, compared to the task of world- and character-building, so this is a situation where the author decision seems to be one of laziness.

My specific gripes about the Hamlet plot (including several spoilers) are these:

Edgar lacks several Hamlet qualities, most notably a philosophical bent. Much is made in the original to show Hamlet's indecision and moral wrangling with the uncertainties of life and death. By not acting quickly, he propagates a worse disaster. There is no interlude of feigned madness in Edgar, only a recalcitrant period following his father's death that can be seen as normal teen-aged behavior.

Several missing tertiary characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern providing a second level of betrayal, or a Fortinbras poised as an external power threatening the kingdom/kennel.

Ophelia/Almondine seems badly mis-handled--the relationship can obviously only be so complicated given that Almondine is a dog. When the blow-up finally happens, Edgar pushes her away out of jealously instead of the complex mix of motivations for Hamlet. Simply put, there isn't a great "Get thee to a nunnery" speech here.

The ending strays from the source so much as to make less of the whole. Claude should have died by Edgar's hands--why would the ghost of Gar haunt Edgar, only to take the final action that dooms Claude? Trudy gets off far too easily--she isn't even allowed the understanding of what happened, since she doesn't witness the events in the barn. Glen Papineau comes out only blinded, apparently unaware of Claude's treachery--so why bother with him in the first place?
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LibraryThing member ktleyed
Summary: A contemporary retelling of Hamlet of stark and striking brilliance set on a farm in remote northern Wisconsin, where the mute and brilliant Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents Gar and Trudy. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomised by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong companion. But when his beloved father mysteriously dies, Edgar blames himself, if only because his muteness left him unable to summon help. Grief-stricken and bewildered by his mother's desperate affair with her dead husband's brother, Edgar's world unravels one spring night when, in the falling rain, he sees his father's ghost. After a botched attempt to prove that his uncle orchestrated Gar's death, Edgar flees into the Chequamegon wilderness leading three yearling dogs. Yet his need to face his father's murderer, and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs, turn Edgar ever homeward. When he returns, nothing is as he expects, and Edgar must choose between revenge or preserving his family legacy!

When I first decided to read this book, I had no idea it was an Oprah selection (I probably would not have read it if I had known, since I tend to avoid her selections.) The other reason was it was a story that involved dogs, and I love dogs having a big Golden Retriever myself. I didn't know much else about the book, but then I began to read it had very mixed reviews. Well, now that I've finished it, I know why.

This book started out very well. In fact, I was so moved by the storyline in the first 40 pages, I was sobbing twice, it tugged at my heartstrings so strongly. The story of Edgar's parents and their early trials and tribulations before he is born, and then when he was born mute, and how they dealt with it was a pleasure to read. Their beloved Almondine becomes Edgar's nursemaid in a way, taking care of him, being his voice from the time they first brought him home from the hospital. All the while, the backdrop of their being dog breeders of the famous Sawtelle dogs was fascinating to read about. Plus, in the majority of the book, Edgar is 14 - the same age as my teenaged son. I could so relate! I really loved it all - until Claude came into the picture.

Claude is Edgar's uncle, and this is where the whole Hamlet storyline comes in to the book. Claude kills his brother, Gar (Edgar's father) who then comes to him on a rainy night outside in the form of a dripping wet ghost. Edgar, who can only speak by signing, communicates with his father by signing, as does his father's ghost back to him. It was an eerie but moving moment, and so begins Edgar's teenaged quest to avenge his father and get rid of Claude, who also had designs on his mother, Trudy. I was really disappointed in Trudy. She started off well, I admired her and her fortitude through her heartaches, but she just seemed to give up and let Claude into her life (and bed) and after that we never really got into her head much until close to the end of the book. What was she thinking of Edgar the whole time he had run away? Wasn't she going out of her mind? Her character started out so well, but then totally fizzled, and wasn't realistic anymore. We lost her.

Edgar runs away with three of the dogs he's training and for almost 2 months he's on foot, trying to make his way to this Commune in Canada. One of the dogs, Tinder, gets injured (I was so sad for Tinder!) and Edgar finds help and lives with this nice, but melancholy, lonely guy, Henry who has a house in the woods. This interlude was okay, but dragged at parts, but it was Edgar's reawakening that he must return, he can't run away any longer. But, I'm still not really sure of what triggered his reawakening, but it was moving when he leaves with the dogs. The dogs were the best part of this book - and Edgar of course. I really liked Edgar a lot, he's special.

But, by the last part of the book when Edgar returns I was really getting fed up with the storyline and didn't like the way it was going. Too many disappointments. I loved Almondine, and what happens to her was so unfair! I would have cried, if I hadn't been so mad. And then the whole crazy ending (trying not to give away spoilers here) in the barn and the final outcome - I could spit, it was all so drawn out and disappointing! No fair! Yes, I know, I know, he was following the story of Hamlet, but did he have to be so faithful to it? Couldn't he make it a happy ending? I felt like I had invested so much into this story with wonderful, sweet Edgar and the dogs and the training - all to have it pulled out from under me!

This book started out so well, but then in the last 250 pages it changed so and become one disappointment after another. It almost seemed as if it was written by a different person in the 2nd half. What happened?? Read it at your own risk, or just read the first 300 pages and leave it there.

I'm rating this a 3.5, but if it had kept the same tone as the first half, it would have been a 5.… (more)
LibraryThing member bkswrites
Beautiful writing, but many problems, particularly poor ending.
“Almondine” chapters are especially well written, but after reading them, I realized they didn't make sense (a dog would know that the woman was pregnant).
Ignorance of sign language — crucial to the "message" and its misunderstanding in the denouement.
Misuse of association with origins of seeing-eye dogs
Raising dogs in rural Wisconsin, but apparently training only for basic companion obedience. Created breed, sold (“placed”) only as yearlings for $1500 in 1960s.
Characters ignore obvious clues (e.g., brother had been imprisoned for murder).
560 pages
Best part is Henry.
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LibraryThing member GramyG
Boy who cannot speak loses father and tries to understand how he died and who caused his death. They own a kennel with dogs they have bred and trained for interacting with humans in a way very different than what we know. I kept thinking I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but every time I picked it up to read more I found myself falling right back into the story. The really stange but wonderful thing is that I just finished reading a book my grandson had ordered from the Scholastic Book Club and wanted his Grandpa and myself to read--Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman. If not for that, I wouldn't have understood that part of the story at all. Hachiko Waits is a very good book for 9 to 12 year olds. Funny how everything is connected in some way.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rickmaniac
SPOILERS!! An unparalleled beauty of a novel whose richly woven stories intertwine; the perspectives of dogs heartfelt and true. I couldn't resist the narratives of all characters, about whom I cared deeply. I am devastated at the horrific ending and had other expectations: Edgar lives and finds a place for himself in the dog breeding business, Claude's nature is finally revealed in full to Trudy, and Claude himself ends our (and his own) torture by taking his own life in the way he ended Edgar's. I have paced the quiet house, frequently weeping as I embrace my own Sawtelle poodle - my animal soul mate whose body must touch mine in our sleep - and I am lost in Edgar's world. I have taken up pen and notepad to read it again, taking copious notes. Also re-reading "Hamlet" to find even more parallels than I had remembered. Unlike Stephen King, I was unable to set it aside at the end to prolong the reading. I gobbled up the last 200 pages without hesitation. This book lives now, in my heart, and among my many book friends. I'm not much of a re-reader, but my copy will be on my shelf for many re-visits. A true masterpiece of literature.… (more)
LibraryThing member DanaJean
Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who is the only child of a couple who raises a special breed of highly intelligent dogs called Sawtelle dogs. Written as an updated version of Hamlet, and having read Hamlet, I knew what was coming and dreaded it. I thought the story was good, the characters interesting and the curiosity of how the author would tell his version of this classic Shakespeare story kept me listening to the audio even though it was breaking my heart. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the ending. One I will have to think about. I would recommend it.… (more)
LibraryThing member CharlesBoyd
Overly long, unevenly interesting, an ending that spoiled much of what was good about the novel. Facinating interactions between the family, especially Edgar, and the dogs.

Wroblewski does show promise.
LibraryThing member jbaker614
As a dog lover, I was captivated by Edgar Sawtelle, a mute child who has a gift of communicating and working with his dogs on his family's farm in rural Wisconsin. The special bond he has with one of the dogs, Almondine, is beautifully depicted, not only from Edgar's perspective, but Almondine's as well. Here is just one example of one of the passages that describes how Almodine longs to be re-united with her companion after he has left the farm due to a family tragedy:

"All her life she had found whatever she had been asked to find and there had only been one thing ever. Now he was truly lost, gone away, crossed into another world, perhaps, some land unknown to her from which he could not return. The closet was as puzzled as she, the bed silent on the question. It was not out of the question that he had learned the secret of flight, and the window was not too small for him to pass through. There, sleeping on his bed at night, she would be the first to see when he returned. Old as she was, she still had questions to ask him, things to show him. She worried about him. She needed to find him, whole or changed, but know in any case, and she would taste the salt of his neck."

This is a long novel with a mysterious plot and an ending that will make many readers feel cheated. Despite the less than fulfilling ending, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever had a special relationship with a dog.
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LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
I resisted reading this book when it first came out, as I often do with books that receive an enormous amount of hype. However, my friend and my dog's trainer recently gave the book to me and so I was nudged toward it.

I wish I had liked it more. It is often referred to as "Hamlet of Wisconsin" and I suppose the part of the plot involving a ghostly father and a an uncle hopping into Mum's bed justifies the comparison, but frankly, when it comes to Hamlet, I missed Ophelia.

Wroblewski can write prose. He uses some terrific phrases and writes a fine description, but I found the pacing very herky-jerky and the character motivations oddly opaque. Several plot lines seemed to fade into nothing (the prophetic old lady for example), and a number of the hinge-events seemed overly sentimental and a little maudlin.

As a dog lover, I was at first charmed by the detail the author puts into the descriptions of dog behavior and psychology, but page after page after page of it inevitably got in the way. I'm surprised an editor didn't ask Wroblewski to choose between writing a dog training/breeding manual and a novel.

As I said, I think Wroblewski knows how to turn a phrase (otherwise the book would have earned only 2 stars), I'm afraid in the end I just wasn't interested enough in the characters, or what happened to them, and the fact I enjoyed the brief passages written from Almondine's (one of the dogs) point of view more than anything else, isn't a good sign.
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LibraryThing member goose114
Edgar Sawtelle is a boy born mute whose family breeds, raises, and trains a fictional breed of dogs. The Sawtelle dogs have been bred to have an amazing sense of companionship and intelligence. Edgar soon develops a connection with one of the dogs that helps him with his inability to speak. After a catastrophe Edgar is faced with confusion, sorrow, and anger. In attempts to solve and reveal a danger secret he must flee into the woods with a few Sawtelle dogs. Edgar’s journey, both literally and metaphorically, to expose the mystery surrounding his family and his return home is engaging and moving.

This was a beautiful story. The backdrop of northern Wisconsin and the scenery create a rich environment for this story to unfold. The characters are vivid and real with their flaws and quirks. The story is constantly moving forward and leading towards a resolution that is not entirely known. There were moments when I could not put this book down and found myself thinking about the story throughout my day. This is truly an epic that I would recommend to anyone seeking a deep poignant story about a boy coming of age amidst a potentially dangerous mystery.
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LibraryThing member lexmccall
Regardless of the plot of this story, it's about a boy who communicates with his dog via sign language, so it has endeared itself to me for that alone.
LibraryThing member Mazidi
I enjoyed this book so much I had to read it twice. The first time I read it through quickly on my Kindle because I cared so much about Edgar and his dogs that I wanted to find out what happened to them. I recognized it as Hamlet, but nonetheless held on to hope for Edgar until the last. Alas.

I bought the hard back and read it about a year later. This time I slowed down to savor Wroblewski's prose, especially his descriptions of the Wisconsin countryside, the careful way he develops his characters, his fearlessness in facing the tragedy that we know is coming. Two other remarkable aspects of this book are his ability to convey what is going on in the mind of a special dog, Almondine, and his ability to portray supernatural encounters in ways that made them truly believable. I listened to an interview he did with Oprah in which we said he spent 15 years writing this book. It shows. This is a well-crafted work.… (more)
LibraryThing member Banbury
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is not a good book. It is too long. Its simplistic parallel with Hamlet is merely a distraction—leading the reader to go on a scavenger hunt for the references, and wondering where to find Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. There was no point to be made outside of those set forth in Hamlet, so there was no need for the re-telling of the story, as the original is much more profound without being so ponderous. It would be a better use of your time to skip Edgar and re-read Hamlet.… (more)
LibraryThing member ireed110
I was all set to rate this book at 5 stars until the book ended. It's almost as though the author ran out of things to say and just came up with the most convenient way to tie up as much as he could - I was disappointed.

The rest of the story was out-of-control, in-your-face excellent. I was immediately engrossed and captivated by the story of the mute boy who grew up surrounded by dogs.… (more)
LibraryThing member JGoto
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle parallels the story of Hamlet. The themes are the same. Even the names are similar: Claude represents Claudius, Trudy represents Gertrude. That said, Wroblewski’s book is a beautifully written, excellent novel in its own right. The setting is a Wisconsin dog breeding farm. The protagonist, Edgar, is a sensitive, mute boy. All of the characters in this book, including the dogs, are exquisitely drawn.
The descriptions of the idyllic life on the dog farm and the wilderness into which Edgar escapes after the death of his father are mesmerizing; they made me feel as if I had entered another world. This is a novel that will stay with me a long time and one I heartily recommend.
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LibraryThing member tpure
Wroblewski's writing feels precious and too well manicured, while subplots unceremoniously deadend on you making you feel teased. Excessively used words like "mow" and "withers", punctuate the text and hang like lead weights in the middle of otherwise fluid sentences. While the writing can at times be beautiful, overall the effect feels lifeless and sterile. I really wanted to like this book, but was disappointed.… (more)
LibraryThing member arblock
I am very conflicted about this work. Obviously, he can write beautifully, and evocatively, of the countryside. This book has a very strong sense of place. Also, his description of the relationship of Edgar and the dogs is moving, and really altered the way I relate to my own dog. However, I had many problems with this book, namely:
1. It is way too long, in the wrong ways. The very long section wherein Edgar runs away from home seemed almost totally unnecessary and did not move the story forward
2. Claude is drawn in a unidimensional way, as a nefarious sociopath. That Trudy, who is such a strong, intelligent and insightful woman, could be drawn to him and not see through him just didn't wash for me.
3. Without revealing too much, it was unnecessarily tragic
4. The book did not break any new ground, nor did it seem particularly insightful. In fact, I liked Old Yeller better.
I just don't get all the excitement about this book...except that it is about dogs, and everybody loves dogs.
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LibraryThing member memccauley6
I heard good things about this book and I am an animal lover - and it was obviously a re-imagining of Hamlet - so I kept reading, hoping something would happen. (At the very least, I thought, the end of Hamlet is a real blood bath!)

So I stuck it out, and now over 600 pages later, I find myself totally befuzzled. To be completely honest: I feel like I do when exposed to a certain relative of mine; she can talk to you for an hour or two about absolutely nothing…. I’m sure you have one in your life – a person who can turn a 5-minute trip to Wal-Mart into an hour story.
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LibraryThing member SPutman
This debut coming-of-age novel, set in rural Wisconsin, is a modern take on Hamlet. The protagonist, 14-year-old Edgar, is mute and communicates with a unique mix of sign and body language. He lives a peaceful life with his parents on the family farm, breeding and raising Sawtelle dogs as thoughtful companions. But when Edgar’s uncle returns, Edgar’s world is tragically upended.
The plot and its conflicts are complex as a grief-stricken Edgar struggles to prove his uncle’s role in his father's death. When his plan backfires, Edgar take offs into the wilderness, fighting for survival with three dogs in tow. But his need to face his father's murderer pulls Edgar toward home:
“He’d left in confusion, but his return was clarifying. So much of what had been obscure while he faced away was now evident. … So much of the world was governed by chance. … Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents—the rest you let float by. … Some things were certain—they had already happened—but the future would not be divined. … The future was no ally. A person had only his life to barter with” (p. 458).
The author’s style and setting reveal breathtaking scenes---the woods throughout the seasons, an iconic American barn, an ominous vision in the falling rain--create a mesmerizing family saga that explores the limits of the spoken word. And—spoiler alert—as with Hamlet and other Shakespearian tragedies, we are left with only a witness in the end.
My hope is that this will win the 2009 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, whose criteria are to “illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence, demonstrated by compelling, high quality writing and/or illustration; the integrity of the work as a whole; its proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers.”
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LibraryThing member jessicastatzer
As both a dog and Oprah book club lover I was very excited to read this book. It held my attention through the first third of the book. I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the dogs' mannerisims but really struggled to finish this novel. The ending was unsatisfying and the middle drug on. I would not recommend this novel as a "Wow" read.… (more)




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