Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farmand into Edgar's mother's affections.
Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfiresspectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenesthe elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling raincreate a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.
As a shaggy dog tale, it doesn't get much better. The dogs practically luminesce in the gorgeous, precise prose with which Wroblewski conjures them. He is equally good at describing the dogs' physical characteristics and their inner lives ...
Dog lovers will take to this book like, well, like a retriever to water (beware, though, that you may come away feeling badly about treating your own dog like a pet rather than a glowingly, steadfastly sentient being). Yet the book also transcends its subject matter, and anyone who loves a good yarn, one that confidently soars well past the borders of believability, will take to it as well—and might even find themselves with the urge to head down to their local animal shelter. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Entertainment Weekly - Tina Jordan
Don't let the book's massive size fool you: This is a good old-fashioned coming-of-age yarn. Rated: A.
New York Times - Janet Maslin
One of Mr. Wroblewski’s most impressive accomplishments here is to exert a strong, seemingly effortless gravitational pull. The reader who has no interest in dogs, boys or Oedipal conflicts of the north woods of Wisconsin will nonetheless find these things irresistible. Pick up this book and expect to feel very, very reluctant to put it down.
Chicago Tribune - Bruce Olds The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not a family saga, but it is an ambitious, accomplished, though not flawless work. The author too often lapses into Hemingwayese, or piles on three descriptive details where two would do, or indulges a moment of portentous foreshadowing, and there is a scene or three that might have been cut or trimmed to the narrative's benefit.
None of this, however, diminishes the incandescent power of a novel that can only be declared a critical success. Is it not, after all, the blemish in beauty that most enchants us?
The Washington Post - David Wroblewski
Most of the story comes to us through a masterful, transparent voice: The author, the narrator, the pages -- everything fades away as we're drawn into this engrossing tale. But there are also a few inventive variations. Once in a while, we see events from a dog's point of view, in a strangely humane but inhuman perspective. Another chapter is made up of Edgar's first memories as a baby and toddler, and there's a chilling section told from the murderer's perspective.
A stately, wonderfully written debut novel…[Wroblewski] takes an intense interest in his characters; takes pains to invest emotion and rough understanding in them; and sets them in motion with graceful language… a boon for dog lovers, and for fans of storytelling that eschews flash. Highly recommended.
An excruciatingly captivating read…Ultimately liberating, though tragic and heart-wrenching, this book is unforgettable.
Starred Review. Sustained by a momentum that has the crushing inevitability of fate, the propulsive narrative will have readers sucked in all the way through the breathtaking final scenes.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Karen Good until the ending disappoints I was ready to recommend this book to my book club until it ended. All that reading to
be so disappointed in the end. I felt the author just wanted to end it, not caring what
the reader would feel.
Rated of 5
by FaeryGramma Worst Ending Ever I am not a dog person but I learned so much about dogs and humans. This book was wonderful in language altho "melange" was used too much but what the heck happened to the plot? I could not believe the ending. HUH? [edited to remove plot... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sara A Change in Perspective Before I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, big books really weren't my thing. I picked it up because my Aunt was reading it, and once I did I rarely put it down - not during school, on the bus, or at home. Edgar taught me that just because you feel... Read More
Rated of 5
by Anita The Story of Edgar Sawtelle I thought this was one of the strangest book I have ever read. At first the concept seemed plausible to some extent, but frankly I thought the ending was awful. It made no sense, and left a great deal of information out.
Perhaps there is a... Read More
Rated of 5
by Diana Hedum Robbed The book held so much for the reader but in the end I felt robbed. The evolution of Trudy was disturbing and somewhat insulting. She came across as savvy, together, and understanding/sharing of her husband's family dynamic. It didn't make sense for... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kim Engaging but disappointing I love a great novel - the longer the better. I had no trouble getting into the story and finishing this almost 600 pg book in less than a week. One has such high hopes for the characters, especially Edgar and his mother. Maybe it's still the... Read More
Dog Training Methods & The Seeing Eye
Edgar Sawtelle would not have much to sayor signto the Dog Whisperer. Cesar
Millan, the star of "The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic Channel, is
known for his "pack-oriented" philosophy, which traces canine behavior back to
their survival instinct for living in highly organized packs led by a single,
strong leader. As Millan's
website states, "[I]n order to properly fulfill both our dogs and ourselves,
we each need to become our canine's calm-assertive pack leader." And so Millan
teaches dog owners to exert dominance over their dogsa practice found in many
dog behavior books. His work has drawn criticism from other trainers who believe
that countering canine aggression with human aggression is a dangerous tactic.
By contrast, the Sawtelles view their dogs as equals. In one achingly beautiful
scene, Edgar's mother Trudy teaches Edgar how to train his dog Finch. She asks
Edgar to command Finch to jump a short barrier. Edgar stands on the other side
of the barrier and...
Bridge of Sighs courses with small-town rhythms and the claims of family. Here is a town, as well as a world, defined by magnificent and nearly devastating contradictions.
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