The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski

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Four and a half stars, read September/October 2011.

This book was so surprising to me, and so very beautiful. I’m glad I didn’t know what it was about until the day I picked it up to start reading, because honestly, I’m not really into boy-and-his-dog-type stories; I probably would have been totally turned off to it if I’d seen the blurb, despite a good friend’s recommendation.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is about a boy who is born mute (but not deaf), on a gorgeous farm where his parents breed and train dogs. Edgar has an incredible relationship with these dogs, who can understand him better than most humans can, and he is the one responsible for naming them. Every time a new litter is born he plants himself in the barn with his dictionary, and I have to tell you that Edgar’s love of words is one of the things that makes him so wonderful a character to me. I just loved reading those scenes.

Edgar is a wonderful character, and the Sawtelle dogs are some of the best non-human characters I’ve ever read. I kept being surprised, even as I was reading, at how lovely the language was, how engaging the characters were, how interesting—and tragic—the story was.

The summary you get from the inside flap is that one day, something really terrible happens on the Sawtelle farm and Edgar ends up fleeing into the Chequamegon, the 800,000+ acre forest wilderness in northern Wisconsin. A few of the dogs come with him, and together they survive as Edgar tries to work through what has happened at home. I can’t write much more without including major spoilers, so I will say only that I was surprised to find a seriously strong resemblance to a certain Shakespeare play, which was not what I was expecting.
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