The novel is an intimate portrait of the Sawtelle family of Northern Wisconsin. The prose is lush and evocative. This alluring and compelling tome is the epic story of a mute boy, Edgar Sawtelle, and his family’s quest to produce their own breed of dogs: selectively bred and trained to think for themselves. Wroblewski’s narrative is sweeping and evocative of rural America. The characters are well-drawn. The plot is artfully crafted, and the ending, although heartbreaking, is satisfying.
At 562 pages in hardcover, reading Edgar Sawtelle is a daunting task. However, the story draws you in from the first, the prologue seemingly detached from the story until the very end of the novel. The book follows Edgar’s family from the time it settled in Northern Wisconsin, through two generations, and ultimately through Edgar’s life until his teenage years. No spoilers here! We watch Edgar, mute from birth but not deaf, grow and mature through the trials of his family life. We watch him as he trains his dogs and as they train him to become a better person.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is, without doubt, the best work of fiction I have read in years. This novel should be nominated for — and deserves to win — the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. If you won’t take my word for it, read what The New York Times and NPR had to say about this book. Pick up or borrow a copy and read this book!