Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Signs of Suspicion

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski

After finishing this engrossing story, I am really conflicted. I've been looking forward to reading this ever since the Washington Post Book World called it the "must read of the summer" several issues back. Every review I have read of it has been overwhelmingly positive, and I was eager to get into it - you know how it is when a book is so good you are just lost in it for a few days? That's how I thought this would be.

There is no question the story is beautifully written. I read Wroblewski's sentences with a mixture of awe and envy. However, it seemed like it took the narrative a long time to get rolling. Wroblewski does a masterful job of building the suspense. This sinister character, Claude, is just kind of slithering around and you know something is off with him, but just can't quite tell what. Edgar's muteness is an interesting device - there is a sense of detachment about him as a character, which I think would be pretty authentic for a person who could not converse in the way that most of us can. Wroblewski's depiction of Edgar's relationship with his dogs is wonderful - the reader really has a sense of his connection with them and the way that he communicates with them much more naturally than he does with humans.

The story really picks up steam, though, after Edgar and Claude have their first major confrontation and Edgar leaves home. I loved reading about how Edgar and his three four-legged companions survived on their own. The relationship that develops between Edgar and Henry (not to mention Henry and the dogs) was a turning point - it seems that Edgar finally realizes that as much as he loves the dogs he cannot last long without human contact and interaction.

It was in this second half of the book that I got really into it and began to understand what all the hype for this book was about. I have to confess, though, that the ending devastated me. I absolutely did not see that complete, tragic destruction coming. I did not necessarily think it was going to be a "happily ever after" ending, but I expected some sort of redemption for all Edgar has been through, some sort of vindication to emerge as it became clear just how big a scumbag Claude was. To have years of the Sawtelle's work go up in smoke in spite of Edgar's courage and dedication was so disappointing.

I guess that's the deal, though. Sometimes, things work out as they should or as we would want them to. Sometimes, they do not happen as we would choose, but we can discern some underlying value or justice in the way things unfold. Other times, we are left desolate with no sense of wholeness or reconciliation. I think of the words of one of my colleagues when my friend KB died. She said "The mystery of this is almost too much to bear." I guess sometimes we do have to just live into the mystery of things and trust that redemption occurs in God's time, even when we do not perceive it.

Reverent Reader


At 8/28/08, 8:57 PM , Anonymous Betsy said...

Hi Leslie, I wrote a comment but guess I didn't address it correctly. Finished this yesterday, and wanted more all day today. Also wondered HOW the author could destroy the whole world he created, and when he decided on the end. Especially liked Henry, and Edgar's trip thru the woods etc with the 3 dogs.

At 8/29/08, 12:54 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Hi Betsy - I know, the ending was so hard. I wondered the same thing you did. Still a marvelous piece of writing, though.


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