Keeping up with a tradition of this year, which is writing a reflective piece of all the books I read, this one is for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski which I finished recently. Its such a strenous and probably irrational commitment to make upon myself. Why am I doing this? I dont even know, I just feel the need to commit to something, and this particular commitment I feel will benefit me in some way, probably along the way, as I stride through the task. And this is not a book review, I feel I am not an expert yet thus I feel it would be fraudulent of me to take up a fine scalpel and disect a book or neither am I a seasoned reader to start rating them with Stars too. This is my book reflection, a swift drive back of my thoughts and memories through the whole reading experience of the book from begining till end.
This book was a big one, therefore I am very, very proud of having finished that great lump of a book. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is an American novel that was greatly praised by Stephen King, the Oprah book club, New York Times and the many other established and respected Reviewers out there. Thats what drew me to this. Plus, its titled ‘The Story of ….” which I wanted to know more of. A simple title adequate of an Essay heading by a Junior Level student, like something I would write as a title in Primary School and then my teacher would growl at me for being so clichéd and uncreative with titles. With such simplicity in titles, I always assume that great depth shall follow. Simple titles created by adults as title for serious novels is actually a good thing – its a sign of seriousness.
The cover of the book – lovely! The soft colours, the picture that captures heartland America with a huge red barn and a young boy (definitely Edgar Sawtelle) and a large fury dog – idyllic country life at its best -walking back to that big red ole barn. Its a picture of a fine evening – oooh somebody take me there. Matter of fact seeing the illustration and the well thought out, carefully constructed yet simple cover (again a sign of seriousness and depth), I saw my ticket to heartland America, part of the great reason I snatched up the book, determined to read it.
So the book starts off with a man traversing through a street in Korea searching for a particular shop … Hmm .. mysterious, where the dogs at I thought, because I read at the back cover description that it is about a family with a dog kennel. But no, hold on tight Kaliova, I thought, I knew I had to remember that bit as its going to be of great use to solving a mystery later on. This unknown man who supposedly has military background was after a particular shop and the Korean man gave him poison, how I know its poison – well the man tests it on a stray dog (maybe it was his own dog, but no that would be a heartless and weird thing to do) and the stray dog dies.
After that we are transported to the great Sawtelle farm. It provides a back story to how the residence got into the hands of John Sawtelle (Edgars grandfather) and also how the Dog Kennel business began. It began with Mr John Sawtelles love for dogs and his belief that dogs had unique qualities and traits so a careful breeding process needs to take place in order to create fine specimen of dogs. So every dog was a carefully scrutinised and studied and then matches were made. They had files for every dog and they had developed formulas to identify probibilities of success and failure. So therefore was no love marriages in that Kingdom especially in terms of the dogs. Also a very regimental training programme was in place for the dogs from when they are young pups till the placement day – where they are given to new owners. They take this whole Dog Breeding and Training programme to a whole new level in the sense that even after placement the dogs progress is still monitored and they are always following up with new owners. And all of this is monitored mind you. Quite incredible, its a sign of great commitment to the craft.
Edgar Sawtelle, son of Gar and Trudy Sawtelle was born after one miscarriage – a devastating blow on both the couple – hence he was a much needed blessing for the gloomy state the couple were in. He had a small disability, he was mute but he was not deaf. Before his birth a dog named Almondine had been raised as as a family pet, different from the rest of dogs in Kennel. He was a family pet and an intelligent one who became the voice for Edgar – in the sense that he would bark when Edgar was crying for help. Almondine was a close companion for Edgar from Day 1 till the end of this book.
Everything was fine until the day that Claude Sawtelle – Edgars uncle who sold his share of the Kennel business and recruited himself in the army – came back. A very disruptive man with a hidden agenda. He was weird and smelt of trouble from that very first day we are introduced to him in that book. Forgot to mention this but its an equally important minor detail, John Sawtelle had only 2 sons – Edgars father and Claude. This Claude had something againt Edgars fathers, Gar. He was probably jealous of him but totally unwarranted as Gar stayed back and made things work and he became better at what he did, so quite distasteful that he was jealous – irrational, evil and selfish.
I should mention how Trudy was a great match for Edgars father in terms of running the whole Kennel business. She complimented him well and excelled in arreas where Edgars father did not do well. She was good at training dogs where else he wasnt, but he was very analytical and passionate about breeding them and running the overall business, dog placements and the follow ups with new dog owners.
Tragedy happened somewhere in the middle lf the book when Edgars father died. Things changed and even though Doctors claimed it was some fatal flaw that was totally random and had a small probability of occuring. Trudy and Edgar were left behind to run the Kennel by themselves and from the first day they were determined to show they were going to make it in order to avoid loosing it.
Edgar uncovered a mystery to the death of his father raising great suspicion in him that his father was murdered. By grief over the new information, he is driven to act like a lunatic and the whole book just spirals downward from there. Quite intense and I just didnt like it much. I feel that alot of things couldve been prevented. The overly tragic ending couldve been prevented if things happened differently or if the adults in the book were more adult and actually cared for that desperately lonely and hurt young boy. The book is very long and oh my gerrd it was tiring.
Out of everything in the book I liked a sub character who came later on when young Edgar was on the run with his dogs. He was a man living alone after his girlfriend breaks up with him for being too ordinary. I liked how very ordinary and practical his life was out there in a place probably considered to be the middle of nowhere. He was very laid back. He went to work in the morning and came back in the afternoon with groceries, made dinner for himself, listened to Vinyl music and then went off to sleep. There was a lot of food. Somedays he would sit out in the yard and make Barbeque and have himself beer out there in his front yard. He loved his beer. I liked that account of his life – the sense of solitary living and peace – and also how he shared it with Edgar and his dogs when they came running upon him hungry and hurt.
I am leaving out a lot of details from the book to avoid being a spoiler for anyone else intending to read it. Overall I am not too much enthusiastic about this book. I had high expectation of it but it fell flat for me. Probably this is due to the fact that I dont relate to it in anyway and also I felt it was unrealistic and over exagerated. Books should be told from a point of honesty and I believe this book was just aspiring for greatness hence the length of it and the great drama in it.
Again, thanks for reading. If you have read this book, how did you find the book? If you liked the book, you could help me like it too by sharing why you liked it?