Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

I typically don't bother to read best sellers and I especially don't bother with Oprah's Book Club recommendations. There's something contrary in me (no jokes please) that simply refuses to do what everyone else is doing. I suppose it's a side effect of the whole "if everyone else was jumping off a bridge" thing my mother put into my head when I was a kid. I'm sure sometimes she wishes she'd suggested that I take note of why everyone was jumping off the bridge and determine what they were gaining and, if they appeared to be successful at it, I should then follow their example. But she was under duress at the time (She was raising me after all) so I don't hold it against her.

However, this time I'm happy to join the fray.

While our electricity was out Gary, Jeremiah, and I and made a long scary foray to a nearby town to buy a propane heater to keep from freezing. We stopped at Walmart to buy propane for it, split up in search of a few other items, and agreed to meet in "Books and Magazines" as is our very dangerous to the pocketbook habit.

I was actually looking for a book by Stephen King recommended to me by a friend and not finding it when I spotted this one. I didn't notice the Oprah Book club insignia on the jacket until much later. Reading the flap, I was much amused by the plot summary on the inside flap referencing the the family's raising a "fictional breed of dog". I pointed it out to Gary and Jeremiah who were still trying to help me find the King book. All of us love to find peculiar (read: misused) phrases like this and, being major dog lovers anyway, we contemplated the concept of "fictional breed" with some amusement. That may be a "you-gotta-be-a-Paddock" moment for you to fully appreciate our peculiar sense of humor, so don't worry about it if you didn't get it.

The strange phrase was almost enough to make me put it down, but I wasn't having any luck finding what I'd come for anyway so I flipped to the first page and scanned it. The fact that the writing was quite good made me read further. And further. Resting the book on the shopping cart, I read half the first chapter while standing there. Then I flipped a few pages further ahead and found a chapter written from the POV of a dog named Almondine and I was riveted and terribly jealous. I write dogs pretty darned well, but not like this. If dogs could read, they'd shake this guy's hand to thank him for getting it right.

I decided that my otherwise crummy week had earned me a hard back book (The last hard back I bought was Duma Key by Stephen King), so I bought it and brought it home. This was one of the few things that went right. (Did I mention that the fuel pump went out on the car yesterday? No? Well, it did.)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is probably the first book I've ever read that I fervently wish I'd written. In brief--this book is more than a dog story. It's about relationships, passion, tragedy, murder, psychics, ghosts, surviving, and dying.

An excerpt of the first chapter can be found HERE. I'll be honest, I thought it was a slow start, but the writing was good enough to keep me focused until the wheels of the plot picked up enough traction to carry me into the story.

Oh and don't click the following link unless you don't mind a few spoilers, but there's a a handy set of notes: HERE I confess I didn't get the whole Hamlet references in it on my own. I think you can read the whole thing and fully appreciate it for simply being a well-written piece of fiction without drawing any parallels, so don't let the whole "book club" level examination put you off.

If you do decide to read it, I'd love to talk about it with someone, so let me know!


Debby said...

I'm hooked. It's the next book I'll read.

Hal Johnson said...

I'm contrary in much the same way, but you may have me hooked on that one.

Mary Paddock said...

Cool guys. Let me know what you think of it.