I’ve just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This book was a New York Times bestseller in 2008 and also made Oprah Winfrey’s book club. With these accolades behind it, and since the novel is set in a breeding kennels (fictitious) in Wisconsin, I had high hopes.
This book is over 560 pages and so it has taken me quite some time to finish it. The story, at least for the first half, is quite good. Edgar Sawtelle is a young boy growing up surrounded by dogs and his special canine ompanion, Almondine. Edgar is mute – he can hear but has never been able to speak. However, he has developed his own sign language that his parents can easily interpret and use.
The Sawtelles are dog breeders with a difference. Dogs are whelped and then trained for a year before going to new homes. “The Sawtelle Dogs” are a reputable breed (although we never quite find out what kind of breed or mixed breed they are).
Edgar’s life changes when his uncle, Claude, enters their lives. When Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Edgar goes on the run with a handful of the Sawtelle dogs as companions. During his months on the run, Edgar matures. It is this part of the book, with Edgar’s adventures, that I enjoyed the most.
Then Edgar returns home and life at the Sawtelle homestead to finish his unfinished business. It is these final chapters of the book that I found really disappointing and dark.
The story has been labelled a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t like it. I had hoped for an entertaining novel and the story at first was full of promise. In my opinion, this novel didn’t live up to its reputation and advertising. I do notice that the most recent rating for the book on Amazon.com is only 3 stars….so perhaps I’m not alone?