November 03, 2008

The (sob!) Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Everywhere I go these days friends stop me and ask if I have read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle “yet.” They always say “yet” as if it’s inevitable that I will read this book.

And, in fact, I have already read it. This is Oprah’s latest pick. I have this awful instinct to sneer at Oprah’s picks, which is silly because (a) if it’s because I’m being snobby, that’s just misdirected, because I often have sort of low-brow taste in books (wait ‘til you see tomorrow’s entry on this page), and (b) I have enjoyed Oprah picks in the past. And (c) she often picks prize-winners. So what am I sneering about? This whole Oprah's Book Club thing is such an old debate topic for readers, I don’t even know why I’m getting into it right now. So back to Edgar Sawtelle.

This book was so good. Just really gentle, and beautiful, and big-hearted, and amazing, and also suspenseful at the same time. The plot revolves around a boy who can’t talk and his youth on a dog-breeding farm in Wisconsin. So, this plot description would normally stop me in my tracks: A child with a disability + dogs = automatic tears and heartbreak, right? But I saw an interview with the author, David Wroblewski (this is his first book), and he seemed so humbled and appreciative of all the attention he has been getting, and I liked the look of him, so I bought the (hefty) book in an airport on a whim. I’ll admit I did cry several times while reading the story – sometimes because it was sad but also just because I got overwhelmed. It’s just really lovely.

The book mixes some Hamlet, a coming-of-age story, a mystery, psychology, lovely writing – just so many reasons to like this book.

I performed a little experiment after reading this one: Sometimes if I end up really liking a hyped-up best-seller I go look up some bad reviews to see if I’m just a sucker, maybe to bring me back down to earth. (I have decided that I really shouldn’t do this, by the way. It ruins my enjoyment. I don’t know why I do it. So I feel like I'm more adept at thinking critically? So I don't feel like a sheep?) But the people I saw on the internets who hated Edgar Sawtelle had pretty lame reasons for it, in my opinion. For the most part, the haters just didn’t like the way the book ended. This is a 576-page book. Assuming you liked the book enough to get through the first 500 pages and then you just didn’t like the end… I don’t know. I don’t think that makes it a bad book. But then again, people read for different reasons. They’re entitled to their (wrong) opinions as much as anyone else.

Me, I definitely recommend this one. Thanks, Oprah.

1 comment:

Lynea Newcomer said...

And I'll definitely buy myself an early christmas present of this book. Thanks for writing about it. Have you read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawkins? Rather different than, say, Vowell's writing. But hey, I'll throw it out there. Hope you are well! not wrapping sales at our beloved bookstore this year, I suppose? I do wonder how it is doing. Well I hope?