Finished October 31
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
It took me ages to read this book. I had it, along with several others, by the bed, and dipped into now and then. Because I had heard it described as a retelling of Hamlet, I had approached it with something like dread as I got further in, both wanting to read it but also not wanting to find out what happened to Edgar.
The prologue takes place in 1952 in South Korea where a man makes an exchange of a life-giving drug for one that takes life. We don't know who the man is.
The story then begins in 1919, starting with Edgar's grandfather, John, and his delivery of a puppy in exchange for another. After completing the exchange John was driving around the backroads and came across a farm for sale, was attracted by what he saw and bought it. John rented out the fields, got a job at the mill in town, and began to raise dogs. John and his wife Mary had two sons, very different from each other. One left, Claude, and one stayed and the son that stayed, Gar, was Edgar's father. Gar and his wife Trudy took on the business of raising the dogs, with Trudy taking on the majority of the training. Gar and Trudy wanted children, and after several disappointments finally had a son, Edgar, born in May 1958. But Edgar was born different, unable to make a noise, even able to cry as a normal baby. There appears to be no physical reason for his silence.
One of the dogs, Almondine was treated more as a pet, stayed with them in the house and grew up with Edgar. She is one of his earliest memories. There are chapters in the book from her voice, that I found some of the most moving chapters in the book.
Early in Edgar's life someone is brought into their lives that alerts Trudy and Gar to the potential of sign language for Edgar, and they beginning learning it so that they can teach him,
When Edgar is as tall as Trudy, Claude comes back into their lives. He was in the army but is out now and staying with them until he gets settled. But he and Gar don't get along, and by the time he leaves, the brothers are at odds with each other.
Edgar observes others closely and understands both people and dogs. As his life goes forward and things in his family change, he also finds himself frustrated by what is not within his ability to fix or control. It is here where I found myself reluctant to go on, both wanting to know and not wanting to know how things with Edgar would end in this novel.
A moving book, with wonderful writing.