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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David…

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (edition 2008)

by David Wroblewski

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6,783371544 (3.73)336
Title:The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Authors:David Wroblewski
Info:Ecco Pr (2008), Paperback
Collections:Read but unowned, Borrowed
Tags:Wisconsin, coming of age, journey, 50 States Challenge

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

  1. 10
    What the Deaf-Mute Heard by G. D. Gearino (Bookshop_Lady)
    Bookshop_Lady: Coming-of-age stories, family secrets, loss of parents - both wonderful books.
  2. 00
    The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (chndlrs)
  3. 00
    The Turtle Warrior: A Novel by Mary Relindes Ellis (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both novels feature a sympathetic young man as the main character, an isolated rural setting, and a ghost.
  4. 00
    The Maestro by Tim Wynne-Jones (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: If you read and liked The Maestro as a teen, as an you'll probably like at least Part 2 of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle because of the adventure/survival aspect to the plot.

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» See also 336 mentions

English (363)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (368)
Showing 1-5 of 363 (next | show all)
I came across this when it was an Oprah book club selection. Loved it. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
This was a great read. I read the first 200 pages in one day, could not put it down.
I loved the story. You have to love dogs and the bond with them if you are going to read this.
I loved Edgar and Almondine. And like others I mourn for both of them.
I will say there was abt 60 pages in the middle that could have been reduced greatly, seemed a bit repeticious.But the story picked up again.
I hope this author writes again.One of my best reads!!!! ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |

Edgar comes from a line of dog breeders. After buying a farm, his grandfather rents out the farmland and starts dog breeding. He and his wife have two sons, Edgar's father (Gar) and Claude. Claude leaves the farm and Gar stays on and carries on the family business. After some troubled attempts to have a child, Gar and his wife (Trudy) have Edgar. After his parents come to understand that he is mute, Edgar grows up on the farm learning to breed dogs with his parents and Almondine, his own dog. Once he is old enough, his parents give him his own litter to raise.

Eventually, Claude returns to the farm. After a brief stint of helping out around the house and barn, he leaves after a drunken brawl with Gar. A few weeks later, Edgar finds his father in the barn, dying mysteriously. After unsuccessfully trying to call for help, Edgar watches his father die.

After burying Gar, Edgar and Trudy decide to keep the family business running, despite the new workload. However, shortly after beginning to adjust to Gar's death, Trudy catches pneumonia and Edgar attempts to carry on the work without her. Before long, two dogs end up in a vicious fight. With both dogs injured and their vet out of town, they must call on Claude for assistance. After he helps treat the dogs and Trudy recovers, they begin to sleep together.
One night not long after, Edgar wakes to the dogs barking and goes to investigate. Searching around in a storm for what was causing the dogs to bark, he sees the outline of his father's ghost in the rain. Through signs, Edgar is led to the syringe that most likely killed his father – one that he has seen Claude use before.

After Edgar confirms for sure that his mother and Claude are indeed romantically involved, he struggles to live under the same roof with his uncle. He comes to seek confirmation for his suspicions about his father's murder.

When a potential buyer comes over to take a look at their dogs, Edgar seizes on the opportunity to test Claude. He stages a scene with the dogs, in which they mimic Claude using a syringe to poison people. One dog touches another with a syringe in its mouth and the touched dog falls over and plays dead. The final dog touches Claude's leg, and when he flinches, Edgar feels he has confirmed his suspicions.

Angry at the strange show Edgar put on in front of a buyer, Trudy confronts Edgar and they get in a struggle. In the midst of their argument, Edgar, enraged, seeing a figure he thinks to be Claude, swings a hay hook and sends him tumbling down the stairs, killing him. Trudy discovers that the figure was actually Dr. Papineau, their vet. Scared at what might happen to Edgar because of the death, she tells him to disappear for a while. Three dogs from his litter follow him into the woods.

Edgar drifts in the woods and, without a fishing tackle, is forced to rob the cabins he comes across for food. Eventually he decides to head up to Canada, where there is a commune he hopes to join. Along the way however, one of his dogs is injured, and he is forced to seek help.
He goes to a house he has just robbed and the owner, Henry, helps him with the injured dog. He takes to Henry, and agrees to stay there until his dog has healed. Once the dog is healed, Henry offers to give Edgar a ride up north to his destination. En route they are hit by a tornado. In the aftermath, Edgar decides to return home.

Edgar returns home and leaves a note in his house for his mother. Claude finds it before Trudy and tells Glen, a police officer and son of Dr. Papineau, who is suspicious that Edgar caused his father's death. Spooked by Edgar's appearance, Claude moves a bottle of poison in the barn and Edgar catches him. Later, Edgar sees his mother and convinces her to give him a night alone in the barn, so he can search for the poison Claude moved. Meanwhile, Claude and Glen plot to trap Edgar, so Glen can “question” him.

Glen surprises Edgar in the barn and tries to kidnap him using a rag soaked in ether. Edgar manages to grab some quicklime and douses Glen in it. It gets in Glen's eyes and he stumbles out of the barn, blinded. The ether hits a lamp and the barn lights on fire. Edgar, worried for the dogs papers, his father's life's work, starts moving them out of the barn while it burns up. Claude has hidden the poison with the papers, though. He pretends to help Edgar take the files out of the barn, grabs the bottle of poison, and when he is not looking, stabs Edgar with a syringe in the burning barn. As Claude waits for the poison to work on Edgar, the barn fills with smoke. Claude is unable to escape and he and Edgar die in the barn. The Sawtelle dogs, who have escaped the fire, leave into the wild. ( )
  bostonwendym | Jul 12, 2016 |
much as it pains me to admit, I've lost interest in finishing this & must admit defeat. One more incomplete book.
  Fergster73 | Jun 21, 2016 |
The story takes place in a small Wisconsin town where Gar and Trudy Sawtelle happily raise and train their own unusual breed of dogs. Their only child, fourteen year old Edgar, can hear but is completely mute, unable to make any sound. The family raises and trains a unique breed of dog, prized for their unusual temperament and intelligence. Unlike other breeders who focus on pairings between purebreds, the Sawtelles mated the best physical specimens as well as the most intelligent. Edgar learns the ways of dog breeding and training, always accompanied by his faithful companion Almondine. When Edgar’s uncle, Claude, is released from jail, Edgar's father gives him a job and a place to stay while he gets back on his feet. The situation becomes difficult before long, and disagreements spark a murder that shatters everyone's life on the farm. The results of this event eventually force Edgar to take some of the dogs and flee into the Wisconsin forest. Over the years I've avoided reading this book because I always know a book with animals is going to have some sad parts that I find hard to read. This book also seems to have fans that either love it or hate it. What I didn't realize is that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a modern day adaption of Hamlet where dogs take the place of some of Hamlet’s main characters. And like most of Shakespeare's tragedies, it doesn't end with a traditional happy ending. The author does bring the characters, even the dogs, to life with a wonderful voice. The telling of the story could have been a bit shorter, but that didn't spoil it for me. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is eloquent and philosophical and the characters were so touching that I was crushed when I turned the last page of the book. " ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jun 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 363 (next | show all)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a dutiful procession through the main events of [Hamlet]. The Mousetrap scene, in which Edgar trains his dogs to act out his father’s murder in front of Claude, is marvelous—Wroblewski loves writing about dogs and he’s great at it—but the other pages are still covered by translucent drafter’s blueprints. Here’s Polonius, the meddler, here’s Laertes, the avenging son, and so on. (The Laertes figure isn’t introduced until page 489 and he’s as puzzled as the rest of us about why he’s supposed to kill a fourteen-year-old boy.) Wroblewski is only at pains to apply himself when there’s a chance his characters might become complicated and unsympathetic.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, all 566 pages, is surprising and rewarding. It's worth savoring, both its story and its storytelling.
added by Katya0133 | editUSA Today, Bob Minzesheimer (Jun 19, 2008)
High literary art from a talent that bears watching.
added by Katya0133 | editBooklist, Ian Chipman (Jun 1, 2008)
This is the best book I've read in a long time.
added by Katya0133 | editPublishers Weekly (May 19, 2008)
[A] spellbinding first novel . . .
added by Katya0133 | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2008)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Wroblewskiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lill, DebraCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AlisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. ~Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
For Arthur and Ann Wroblewski
First words
After dark the rain began to fall again, but he had already made up his mind to go and anyway it had been raining for weeks.
High in the crown of a charred tree, an owl revolved its dished face, and one branch down, three small replicas followed.
He thought of his father standing in the barn doorway peering skyward as a thunderstorm approached, while his mother shouted, ‘Gar, get indoors, for God’s sake.’ That was how it was, sometimes. You put yourself in front of the thing and waited for whatever was going to happen and that was all. It scared you and it didn’t matter. You stood and faced it. There was no outwitting anything. … It was not a morbid thought, just the world as it existed. Sometimes you looked the thing in the eye and it turned away. Sometimes it didn’t.
He’d left in confusion, but his return was clarifying. So much of what had been obscure while he faced away was now evident. … So much of the world was governed by chance. … Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents—the rest you let float by. … Some things were certain—they had already happened—but the future would not be divined. … The future was no ally. A person had only his life to barter with.
Most people thought training meant forcing their will on a dog. Or that training required some magical gift. Both ideas were wrong. Real training meant watching, listening, diverting a dog’s exuberance, not suppressing it. You couldn’t change a river into a sea, but you could trace a new channel for it to follow.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061768065, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: It's gutsy for a debut novelist to offer a modern take on Hamlet set in rural Wisconsin--particularly one in which the young hero, born mute, communicates with people, dogs, and the occasional ghost through his own mix of sign and body language. But David Wroblewski's extraordinary way with language in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle immerses readers in a living, breathing world that is both fantastic and utterly believable. In selecting for temperament and a special intelligence, Edgar's grandfather started a line of unusual dogs--the Sawtelles--and his sons carried on his work. But among human families, undesirable traits aren't so easily predicted, and clashes can erupt with tragic force. Edgar's tale takes you to the extremes of what humans must endure, and when you're finally released, you will come back to yourself feeling wiser, and flush with gratitude. And you will have remembered what magnificent alchemy a finely wrought novel can work. --Mari Malcolm

Book Description

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 farm--and 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 backfires--spectacularly. 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 scenes--the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain--create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.

Double Life, with Dogs: An Amazon Exclusive Essay by David Wroblewski

We write the stories we wish we could read. There's no other reason to do it, to spend years pacing around your basement, mumbling, pecking at a keyboard, turning your back on a world that offers such a feast of delicious fruits. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle came about because some time ago I wished I could read a novel about a boy and his dog, one that integrated our contemporary knowledge of canine behavior, cognition, and origins with my experience of living with dogs; if possible, something flavored with the uncynical Midwestern sense of heart and purpose so familiar from my childhood (and something which, in truth, I've spent much my adult life being slightly ashamed of, as if either heart or purpose were embarrassing attributes for a grown-up to display). I'd recently come to know a good dog, maybe the best dog I'd ever met, and the subject of people and dogs and ethics and character suddenly seemed urgent. But when I went looking for such a story, I had to go back almost a hundred years, back to Jack London's Call of the Wild. That was a surprise. A little while after that, an idea for a story came to me--not the whole thing, but enough to start.

Continue Reading Double Life, With Dogs

Praise from Stephen King

"I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and spent twelve happy evenings immersed in the world David Wroblewski has created. As I neared the end, I kept finding excuses to put the book aside for a little, not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it too much; I didn't want it to end. Dog-lovers in particular will find themselves riveted by this story, because the canine world has never been explored with such imagination and emotional resonance. Yet in the end, this isn't a novel about dogs or heartland America--although it is a deeply American work of literature. It's a novel about the human heart, and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate. Yet in the person of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who takes three of his dogs on a brave and dangerous odyssey, Wroblewski does articulate them, and splendidly. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It's over, you think, and I won't read another one this good for a long, long time.

In truth, there's never been a book quite like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I thought of Hamlet when I was reading it, and Watership Down, and The Night of the Hunter, and The Life of Pi--but halfway through, I put all comparisons aside and let it just be itself.

I'm pretty sure this book is going to be a bestseller, but unlike some, it deserves to be. It's also going to be the subject of a great many reading groups, and when the members take up Edgar, I think they will be apt to stick to the book and forget the neighborhood gossip.

Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying: readers who pick up this novel are going to enter a richer world. I envy them the trip. I don't re-read many books, because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:58 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A tale reminiscent of "Hamlet" that also celebrates the alliance between humans and dogs follows speech-disabled Wisconsin youth Edgar, who bonds with three yearling canines and struggles to prove that his sinister uncle is responsible for his father's death.… (more)

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