Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book 91: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This book was beautiful and elegantly written, and yet, it was one of the saddest and most desperate books I can remember. I felt terrible when I finished it. Just terrible. And yet, the experience of reading the book was worth feeling terrible at the end. Almost.

Edgar Sawtelle is mute, unable to speak. He can hear and see just fine, and he’s smart as a whip. From the moment he was born, he has been surrounded by dogs. His father and mother and all of his family have been dedicated to breeding Sawtelle German Shepherds. The relationships between the humans and animals amazed me. The Sawtelle family was able to instill certain characteristics into their dogs through breeding, taught them behavioral cues, and then sold them to their waiting buyers. Edgar, his mother, and his father, are a team of breeders who have produced fantastic dogs for their new owners. When one member of the family passes away, Edgar is forced to do more than he ever thought he’d have to, to save his family’s lifeblood.

From the beginning of the story, I was impressed by the author’s writing. He wrote from multiple character perspectives (including dogs’) and created a story that was utterly beautiful despite its sad, macabre ending.
But the end of this book just didn’t feel right. Although I am enjoy realism and seldom like happy endings, I wanted a happy ending for Edgar and his animals. I actually wanted to write the author and say, “It would have been so easy to make it all okay! Why didn’t you?” With all of the challenges the characters faced, they should have seen some sort of benefit to their hard work and suffering. But they didn't. And it felt overwhelmingly wrong.

It’s really up to you whether you decide to read this book. The first 99% of the book was frighteningly beautiful. In the last 1% of the book, the author laid all of his handiwork to waste. And that’s all I’ll say.

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