Book Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski


Cover of "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A ...

Cover of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel

Someone had recommended The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to me a while back and I just now got a chance to read it. I’m glad – and sad – that I did. The book is beautifully written. The language flows and the descriptions can be breathtaking. The story itself is a sad one to me which is the only complaint I have. I don’t like sad stories – but I can appreciate them.

Edgar Sawtelle is born able to hear but without the ability to speak so he and his parents adapt a sign language to communicate. His family shares in the business of breeding, training and selling Sawtelle dogs.  Many, many years of careful planning and research by Edgar’s grandfather have resulted in an unusually intelligent and sturdy dog. Edgar and his mother train the dogs to sit, stay, down, etc., using a system of hand signals. The pups are not sold until they are about eighteen months old and their training complete.

Edgar’s Uncle Claude, his dad’s brother, comes to live with the family for a time and old tensions between the brothers escalate until Claude moves away to town. Edgar is the only “witness” to his father’s strange and sudden death in a storm and has a difficult time remembering all the details – but they do come to him later. Edgar and his mother struggle to deal with their loss and when Trudy becomes very ill with pneumonia, Claude comes back to help with the kennel.

When Trudy and Claude begin a relationship that is more than brother and sister-in-law, Edgar rebels. Another mysterious death occurs and Edgar runs away with three of his pups, leaving his beloved old dog Almondine behind. He has many adventures and makes a friend. After about two months, he returns home with only one dog.

Claude manipulates people and situations to his advantage and this results in a tragic ending for the family.

I definitely would recommend this book. It is quite compelling and Edgar is a very sympathetic character. Be prepared for a rich story that comes to an unfortunate conclusion.

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