Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt. I think it’ll grow into the 3-star review as I mull it over. For the moment, it’s more like a 2 because the ending really does blow.

This is a coming-of-age story with a heavy emphasis on the theme of isolation and loneliness, as Edgar is born mute and unable to communicate the way most people would. He is the third generation of Sawtelle men to be involved in the family dog breeding business. When his father dies mysteriously, Edgar learns something that eventually causes him to run away from home with three dogs he’s been raising since they were born. Later, though, he returns home to seek revenge for his father’s death.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a very long book, and there are painful stretches where the length really shows, where David Wroblewski could have cut, cut, cut excess wordage, or not shown the same scene we just read from a different character’s perspective. There are some beautiful passages, and some places of engaging story, but there is so much unneeded stuff that just drags the story down.

There are some supernatural elements of the story that seem totally out of place considering the type of literary book this aspires to be. First, there is the father’s ghost, then Ida’s ability to prophecy also seems to be a convenient plot device. Of course, neither are, as Wroblewski relies has heavily on Shakespeare’s Hamlet as Disney did for The Lion King. The allusion is strong enough to be homage, and makes a good bit of the plot easy to guess.

Finally, this was another of my attempts to find a book similar to John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. In this case, the audio book has the same narrator (Richard Poe does a great job), and there are bits and pieces where it touches on the epic scope of Steinbeck’s novel, but in the end the slow parts, the obvious retelling of Hamlet, and a very, very unsatisfying ending make this novel fall well short of Steinbeck.

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