Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #3 - The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle

Oprah’s Book Club Selection – My Personal Project

If you are a regular reader of All Trails Lead Home, you know that I have set a personal goal for the next year – Read and report on one book from Oprah’s Book Club each month until April, 2011.

The book I chose for June is The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.   566 pages. 2008. Harper Collins/Ecco

I will begin with the ending and get the controversial part out of the way. If you Google this book, almost every discussion or review will spend a great portion of the space lamenting the ending of the book. Most people absolutely hate the ending. They detest it. They abhor it. It disturbs them, it bothers them, it colors their view of the entire book.  One person went so far as to say this...."If you want to be furious at a book, read this one!"

C’mon, now….I don’t mind the ending, and I don’t think one should read this book with the dread of eventually meeting up with the ending. Not every story has a happy ending, not every person and dog lives happily ever after. Some do, some don’t. Some do in this book, some don’t. And face it - how many classic books involving dogs end happily? So, jack up your courage and get ready to read a warm, wonderful, beautiful story. It’ll be ok….I promise.

This book is a re-telling of Hamlet, which should tell you something if you know the great Shakespeare play. Set in the late fifties or early sixties, the story revolves around the Sawtelle family who, for generations, have bred and trained a special, fictional breed of dog called the Sawtelle Dog. These dogs are bred for their intelligence, intuition and special ability to problem-solve. The main character is, of course, Edgar Sawtelle, a boy who was born mute. He connects intuitively to the dogs and compares himself to The Jungle Book’s Mowgli.

Edgar’s first memory is of his best friend, Almondine, (Shakespeare would call her Ophelia) the family dog that is his protector and constant companion throughout the book. It’s impossible to read this book and not fall in love with Almondine. Wroblewski even cleverly devotes chapters to Almondine and her thoughts.

Edgar’s parents, Gar and Trudy (Shakespeare would call her Gertrude) are close, loving parents who are totally devoted to Edgar and the dog business. Set in rural Wisconsin, Wroblewski’s lush and sweeping descriptions of country life and the countryside makes a person want to pick up and move there. Edgar’s life is ideal until his father’s mysterious brother, Claude (Shakespeare would call him Claudious) moves in with the family. Things go downhill quickly and the pace of the book picks up considerably.

The book is at once emotional, haunting, colorful, imaginative, mystical and human. The characters are well-drawn, although I would have liked to know more about the motives of some of them. It’s difficult to believe that this is Wroblewski’s first novel. Whether you love dogs or not, you will be mesmerized by this book.

The ending is fast, frenetic, crazy and gut-wrenching. You will be spent at the end of this book, and you will want more.

I loved this book. Knowing Shakespeare’s Hamlet helped me to not be shocked at the ending. If you love the book but hate the ending, maybe you should blame Shakespeare. I hope you will read this terrific book and be as enthralled as I was. I’d love to see your take on it – please comment and let us know what you think of The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle.

Out of 5 stars, I give The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle….
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