THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski*
There is a quiet place in rural Wisconsin that holds within its soft palm the home of Edgar Sawtelle. Born mute, the contemplative Edgar is raised alongside Almondine, one of the unique Sawtelle dogs lovingly bred on the family farm. Edgar’s devoted parents, Trudy and Gar, take Edgar through their pleasant daily routines of raising the pups and sharing their ecclectic history along the way. With his loyal compeer and confidante by his side, young Edgar and Almondine introduce us to the comfort of his home and the acres of whispering hillsides filling us with its grace and ever shifting beauty.
On a day like any other, the quietude of the Sawtelle family is rocked by the distressing and untimely death of Edgar’s beloved father Gar. Frustrated by surrounding events, the now teenaged Edgar is forced to flee the home he so dearly loves and retreat to the vast surrounding woods. Taking both his dogs and his readers with him, we bear witness to an anguished young man who must attempt to keep himself and his dogs alive. As Edgar’s physical odyssey leads him farther and farther from home, his internal struggle edges him closer to who he is as a man.
With hypnotic grace, author David Wroblewski gently plants his reader among the fields of this enviable Eden allowing us to breathe his tale. From crane-like Ida Paine to the darkly shrouded Claude, his characters are so tangible and evoke such emotion from the reader, one is torn between temporarily setting it down and bucking up for Edgar’s sake. While at times we are not sure where Edgar is headed, we trust his quiet stoicism and strength to lead us to resolution.
At times reading like a thriller, the difficulty of this book lies in wrestling with the impulse to read too quickly to see how it resolves. It’s soothing midwestern cadence has a frantic undercurrent that urged me forward when I hated to rush a single word. Like a literary magician, Mr. Wroblewski transforms the sensual complexity of his language into verse for a wide audience. Idyllic in its beauty, haunting in its scope, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not just a book, it is a true literary experience.
*Author David Wroblewski will be appearing at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, November 5th. Please see my Local Voice page for information.