Friday Reads: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski

Sometimes we choose a book; sometimes a book finds us. The latter is what happened with David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. An elderly neighbor who had recently lost his wife and who was cleaning out the house before moving to Florida offered me two books including this one. Sawtelle

This novel tells the story of Edgar, son of parents who raise and train a breed of dog named after the family. For no explicable reason Edgar can hear but is unable to speak. Because of this he trains dogs using signs (and sign language), while his mother uses voice commands.

The story revolves around the death of Edgar’s father (in which Edgar suspects his uncle, Claude) and the accidental death (in which Edgar had a part) of a beloved veterinarian who cares for the family’s dogs. The latter event impels Edgar to run away for two months with three dogs he has raised. His survival in a wilderness area, the appearance of another character who helps him, and his eventual return home to confront his uncle all lead the story along at a good pace for the reader.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book is when the author, employing the “omniscient” voice, tells part of the story from the dog’s perspective. This is especially poignant when Almondine (present at the birth of Edgar and with whom Edgar has a special bond), is facing the end of her life, wondering why her beloved Edgar has left and not returned. It is heart-breaking, but then I am a lover of dogs, so that may have something to do with it. (Note that the author read up on canine cognition in preparing to write the book.)

This book was a 2008 selection of Oprah’s Book Club. (All of us in the library field owe Oprah a debt of gratitude for her support and promotion of book clubs.) If you like dogs and a good mystery, you’ll enjoy this book.

If you are interested in this title for your book club, the Commission has it available for check out. Go to following link to accomplish that:

http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/bookclub/

Richard Miller

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