I just finished reading The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle. It’s a book I resisted for quite awhile, at least partly because Bookdwarf was so enthusiastic about it, and I just didn’t want to admit that she’s always right about these sorts of things.
Another factor that scared me off was that the book contains dogs. That immediately makes me think it’s one of those dog books – you know, of interest only to dog fanciers. It’s not. I’m pretty sure that people who like anything with dogs in it will like this book. After all, it contains dogs. But it’s not the sort of thing that appeals only to them. It will also appeal to novel-lovers. It’s a tale of family and secrets and betrayal, a northern Wisconsin sort of Hamlet mixed with Lear, a story of almosts, of near-breakthroughs in communication and understanding and perfection.
“The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle” uses the relationships – sometimes beautifully tender and joyful – between people and dogs to reflect more clearly the relationship between humans. Just as even imperfect communication between humans and dogs requires years of training and practice, the mute Edgar is stymied by his own imperfect understanding of the world and by other people’s inability to grasp what he’s saying. And of course, more generally, everyone fails to communicate or hides what should most be unearthed and shared.
No, there’s no happy ending there. Nice dogs, though.