The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (P.S.)
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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (P.S.)

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  64,169 ratings  ·  11,820 reviews
The extraordinary debut novel that became a modern classic

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. Edg...more
Paperback, 562 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2008)
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Red
Jul 18, 2008 Red rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Older teens and adults
Recommended to Red by: newspaper review
Shelves: kindle-books, animal
I'm torn. I'm torn between giving this book 5 stars and 1 star. The book is very thought provoking. It is well written, and very evocative of the time (early 70's) and the place (far northern Wisconsin.) This was a book that I had a hard time putting down, and indeed I stayed up too late several nights, and played hooky on chores an entire afternoon, so I could read it instead. I would give the first 500 pages five stars and the last 66 pages one star.

I went into this book thinking it was a YA t...more
William Ramsay
This is a very well written book with serious flaws. I cannot fathom what the point of the book is or why it's getting such good press. The author doesn't seem to understand the relationship between story and the flow of ideas. He skips over important details such as why anyone does anything they do in the story. What does all that dog training have to do with the story? And someone please explain the old woman at the grocery store. Great books, and even just good ones, use incident to explain m...more
Yulia
Anyone can base their work on a Shakespearean tragedy. Go ahead: try it. The goal is to make it speak for itself. This novel has no voice. It's stunningly inauthentic in its modesty and brazen in its ambition. This poorly-conceived and executed book may appeal to a shocking number of readers, but it doesn't make it worth one of the dogs that inspired it.

I feel like Joe the Plumber in Israel: I have a thousand questions in my mind yet I can't think of the right one. Well, I can: how can so many p...more
Will Byrnes
May 21, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Will by: my wife
This is an extraordinary novel, Macbeth in the North Woods of Wisconsin.

Wroblewski was very fond of the stories of Shakespeare as a kid, if not necessarily the actual text, and it is clear that he carried with him the knowledge of tragedy. Edgar opens with a mysterious transaction in the Orient in which a man seeks out a purveyor of a particularly effective poison. That will feature large later in the story.

Edgar (Hamlet) is a boy born without the power of speech to a family (father Gar and mot...more
Ruth
I guess I have to be the spoilsport here. I did not like this book.

Let me just say straight out that anthropomorphism does not sit well with me. I almost jumped ship on page 30, where the story hopped over to the POV of Almondine the dog and had her thinking and reasoning like a human being. I love dogs. I’ve had quite a few in my lifetime. I speak dog well, we relate to each other well. But I think they lose their own innate dignity when people try to turn them into people. A dog is a lovely th...more
Lisa
Stayed up half the night finishing it and… I really can’t be objective about this book. I said earlier how I was enjoying it purely as a reader and not a critic, but it goes deeper than that. It’s like Wroblewski had some kind of infrared Jungian checklist and somehow managed to find out all my childhood fantasies: benevolent and wise dog companion/nursemaid? Check. Super-intelligent semi-wild pack of devoted dogs that sleep with you at night? Check. I guess the only thing worse than being raise...more
Cindy
I was SOOOO disappointed in this book. The only reason I gave it even one star is because of his depiction of the lovely dogs in the story. I felt like the author went overboard trying to 'wax poetic' to the point where I didn't know what he was talking about, even being unsure of what the progression of events was. The entire plot builds to a very important resolution THAT NEVER HAPPENS! What a sell-out. It felt like climbing a long flight of stairs with the anticipation of finding a beautiful...more
Melody
Jan 24, 2013 Melody rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Bobbi B
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew
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Kristy
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Joey
Jul 09, 2008 Joey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who believes in story.
I waged a personal debate for this five-star rating, arguing what exactly makes a book great. With every question, I returned to the story itself has the ability to lift a book above more average efforts.

'The Story of Edgar Sawtelle' is just that, a great story. A modern retelling of 'Hamlet'? Certainly, the author availed himself of the plot to frame his tale of a mute boy and a remarkable group of dogs, but there is much more to be enjoyed among these pages.

There are the languid narrative pass...more
Jen
I feel like I'm one of the only people missing something here. I just finished a book about family, loyalty, dogs, and I just didn't get it. I didn't find myself connecting with the characters and as soon as I was starting to feel a connection (the last two hundred pages), Wroblewski throws out a half-baked ending leaving me saying, "What?". I'm not one that requires a tidy ending, but there should be some well-reasoned meaning.

(Please, Logan, no "I told you so" about Oprah.)
Stefan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne
Like so many movie previews these days, the book jacket on this one gave away pretty much the entire story. Jake's The book has received an incredible amount of hype (including here on goodreads), and I would not be surprised to see it on the short list for the Pulitzer. But, alas, this is not because I found the book to be particularly enjoyable. Edgar Sawtelle is a mute boy living on a farm with his mother and father. They breed an imaginary species of dog that has somehow been created by happ...more
Leslie
Warning: this has a spoiler or two...

I finally finished this book! It took ages... I closed the hardcover thinking: What's the point? There were so many times I felt like the story kept going (it felt terribly strung out -- could tell the same story in fewer -- much fewer pages) and for what reason? I have been taught that every sentence should lead the reader forward and serve a purpose. I kept pulling myself out of the story and saying: 'Why?'

I am not sure why this has received so many rave r...more
Rob
Aug 05, 2008 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of good literature
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle received a lot of advanced hype. The writer was mentored by Richard Russo and Stephen King wrote the mother of all blurbs for the book. While I didn't love it as much as he did, I did like the book very much. I wouldn't call it a classic piece of American literature, but it's probably one of the best books of the year. The story is a retelling of Hamlet, but focuses on an american boy who is mute. He works at his family's farm where they train the finest dogs in the c...more
Karen
Sep 20, 2008 Karen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Don't be sucked in by the hype- it just isn't that good. The story really wanted to be a tragic work of art, but it ended up being a disjointed collection of thoughts. The writing was excellent. There were great descriptions of the dogs and the landscape, but the characters missed the mark entirely. The story of Henry was promising, however after all the build up we find out that inciting turmoil of the character is that he is "ordinary". How heartbreaking.

Like the Winchester mansion, the story...more
Ellen



I think this is an interesting question. Why do we [occasionally:] like books even when we realize they’re deeply flawed? Now I’m not referring to books in fairly formulaic categories, such as romance fiction, where the author knows the book will be evaluated within that genre. I’m referring to fiction—such as Robert James Waller’s Bridges of Madison Country--which I hate beyond words—that aspires to be whatever serious literature actually is.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle would fall in this categ...more
Karey
Feb 08, 2009 Karey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Suspense, classics, and animal lovers, young adults, (does contain a few expletives.)
Recommended to Karey by: oprah...not personally, of course...!
Shelves: classics
I'm re-reading Edgar Sawtelle for a book discussion next month on Constant Reader.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a masterfully crafted tale, written in exquisite language that sets Wroblewski apart as a story teller and writer in his own right. At first I wanted to compare him to Steinbeck, but he belongs in a league of his own. If no one has ever had a dog, after finishing The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, I would venture to say you'll feel as though you've had one all your life.
Jeff
This book is getting a lot of advance praise and will most certainly be a critical hit. I'm sure many people will adore this book, I am unfortunately not one of those people. The writing is beautiful, the story is ambitious, but I found the book utterly monotonous. I kept reading because I felt I should finish the book, not because I wanted to.
Maciek
I was ready to love The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It was one of the biggest publishing hits in 2008 - it captured the attention of writers such as Richard Russo and Stephen King. and was picked up by Oprah for her book club. Quite a feat for a debut novel!

David Wroblewski spent 10 years writing this bool - both a classic "boy and his dog" coming of age story and a sweeping saga of an American family set in rural northern Wisconsin in the 1950's. It's big - over 600 pages. It's ambitious and capt...more
Paul
I know many people adore this book and it had lots of hype some years ago via Oprah, but I'm afraid I didn't love it. It reads easily enough and flows well. The story is straight forward as well. Edgar Sawtelle is born mute and is the only child of Edgar and Trudy Sawtelle. They own a farm and breed dogs, very special dogs (known as Sawtelle dogs), which they then sell. It's all very idyllic until Edgar's uncle turns up from abroad bringing family tensions and history.
The problem is that all th...more
Holli
Where to begin with this one.....I honestly would never have read this book if I had not had other's trusted opinions egging me on. I don't normally read animal books, or books about nature and people in the wild, or extremely wordy novels that go on and on about trees and such.

This book was nothing like any of that.

Instead it was magnificently worded with adjectives I loved (I'm big on adjectives) and the characters had personalities that are even now still in my head. I cheered on Edgar, lov...more
Lobstergirl
May 11, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Theophrastus
The Oprah sticker on the front tells you everything you need to know. That the book is deeply aspirational, acutely maudlin, hideously middlebrow. That in many sentences the author seems to be trying to channel Gerard Manley Hopkins; in others, despite his efforts, he channels Nicholas Sparks. Attempts at magical realism result in execrable whimsy. Oracles advise, bread loaves jump, ghosts speak (in both English and sign language), dogs have complex thoughts and can hold conversations. Of course...more
Jennifer
This epic story of a lonely boy, his loyal dog, and his family's betrayal at the hands of his bitter uncle will not only haunt me for the rest of the summer, but will cause all the other books I pick up this fall to pale in comparison, I suspect. Set in a rural 1970's Wisconsin and gracefully hung on the bones of Hamlet, the story explores the inner life of mute boy Edgar Sawtelle and his amazing invented breed of near- mind-reading dog, simply called the Sawtelle dogs. Edgar's life raising and...more
Cheryl
Oct 04, 2008 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves dogs and loves reading about the challenges that people face
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a spellbinding tale of love and loss, and the ultimate search of finding oneself.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski is the most recent pick for Oprah's Book Club and it is a thoughtful literary masterpiece worthy of 5 stars. This is not your fast-paced thriller beach read; this is a novel you want to read carefully and allow to steep and absorb.

The characters are complexly drawn, three-dimensional and the story itself is highly emotional and inspiring....more
peg
"Let Hercules himself do what he may, / The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.”

Wroblewski's premiere novel is yet another take on Shakespeare's Hamlet albeit many of the Shakespearean counterparts are tail-wagging,four-legged beasts. The story is repleat with ghosts,Oedipal notions,and,of course,tragedy but despite these compelling elements, Edgar Sawtelle just didn't thrill me. At the outset I found the first chapter captivating and was taken by the author's vivid descriptions and elegan...more
Beth
I must say I am disappointed in this book! I guess I expected a lot because of Oprah's enthusiasm. I did like lots of aspects of it - the sweet mute boy, Edgar, and all the dogs and dog training. i love dogs, so I found that all fascinating. I just didn't get parts of the story line. I didn't think it went together. It didn't make sense to me. i have so many unanswered questions. How did Almondine die? Car hit her while looking for Edgar? Don't you think she would have been trained about cars -...more
Jeff Scott
I'm sorry to give this book such a low score since so many are raving about it. I think that simply re-writing Hamlet and placing the location in Wisconsin and throwing in some dogs doesn't really make for a compelling story. The pacing of the book is very slow and it runs back and forth from each characters perspective, even the dogs.

If you are dog lover or train dogs, you would really like this book. It goes through the emotions and the discpline it takes to train a dog. (For instance, Trudy...more
Barbara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Will someone please tell me how this book ends? SPOILER ALERT!! 43 450 May 22, 2014 10:21PM  
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David Wroblewski grew up in rural Wisconsin, not far from the Chequamegon National Forest where The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is set. He earned his master's degree from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and now lives in Colorado with his partner, the writer Kimberly McClintock, and their dog, Lola. This is his first novel.
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“You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents—the rest you let float by.” 1439 likes
“Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents- the rest you let float by.” 55 likes
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