The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A re-read for me. Still amazing. A wonderful literary novel.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski traces the life of a mute boy named Edgar and his journey to be a man; it could be labeled a bildugrsroman (coming of age novel) by literary standards.
Living a simple life with his parents on their farm in a remote part of the northern countryside, his family is well known for breeding dogs. They've branded their canine companions as "Sawtelle Dogs" and what a buyer receives in this is a well-trained, groomed, and completely shaped four-legged-friend - Sawtelle dogs are working dogs, loving dogs, intelligent dogs. Edgar is initially submersed happily in this life until tragedy strikes and his world is dismembered.
When he chooses to leave the comfort of the farm as an escape, Edgar really comes of age surviving the forest surrounding his homeland with a few faithful dogs along for the ride.
Trying to find out not only who he is, but also save his family from a legacy of lies, Edgar is facing choices of true courage and defeat.
Wroblewski's writing is timeless and flawless. This novel is quickly becoming a "classic" in the literary world rivaling other timeless pieces of text that keep those in the know "well-read." His prose and choice of language immerses a reader in the story in a way he or she will become a member of the Sawtelle family. He particularly uses shifting point of view with not only characters but true development of second and third person in moments of the novel that creates tension, grief, joy, devastation.
An obvious prominent feature of this novel is the Sawtelle dogs. The research involved must have been extensive because as a reader, I learned so much about the development, breeding, and care of these gorgeous animals. It made me change the way I view the training of my own dogs and reminded me of how actually lazy I am with regards to this process.
Another important focus in this novel is communication, or lack thereof. As a mute, Edgar's only repose is sign language, of which not everyone in the 1950s knew or wanted to know (in fact, numbers are shockingly low still today even among parents with deaf children - it's very sad). As result of this, he is often alone in his own family really emphasizing the theme of isolation.
And finally, this novel beautifully parallels the story of Hamlet with similar characters, motives, and journeys. While it does not run simultaneously to Hamlet , the quest of plot takes on some of the same major themes and ideas of Hamlet's coming of age development in the classic play. However, Wroblewski does expand on the plot leaving some of Shakespeare's complete and utter devastation at the end of a tragedy up to mystery for the reader.
Overall, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a favorite piece of literature for me. So much so, my seniors are reading it right now.
A must read.
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