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The Dogs of Babel

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  17,230 ratings  ·  2,173 reviews
When his wife dies in a fall from a tree in their backyard, linguist Paul Iverson is wild with despair. In the days that follow, Paul becomes certain that Lexy's death was no accident. Strange clues have been left behind: unique, personal messages that only she could have left and that he is determined to decipher. So beigns Paul's fantastic and even perilous search for th ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 13th 2003 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2003)
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3.56  · 
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 ·  17,230 ratings  ·  2,173 reviews

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Joseph Soltero
Nov 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Ah, where do I begin reviewing this book? Let me start by saying that this book is not about what it's promoted to be. It's marketed as a book about a grieving widower who tries to teach his dog, the sole witness to his late wife's death, to talk. And yes, this book is about that, but it is not solely about that.

This novel is an intense exploration of one man's profound and painful experience of grief - especially when it's over a mysterious death. Did she die accidentally or did she kill hersel
May 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book, in a word, stinks. And now I shall tell you why.

The main character marries a woman named Lexy. Lexy is terribly mysterious, and vibrant, and creative, and such and so on. Okay, whatever, she dies by falling out of an apple tree. Now that I have been browbeaten with the symbolism, let's go to a flashback so Parkhurst can work up some sympathy for this dead chick. By having her suggest that they take a spur of the moment trip to Disneyland! Which I hate! Which should be firebombed! Whi
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 31, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes good writing and can forgive a plot flaw
The writing style is sweet and sensitive, the emotion real, and the story compelling. Dr. Paul Iverson, professor of linguistics, comes home from work one night to find his yard filled with police. His wife, Lexy, has fallen from the apple tree in their yard and died. The death was declared an accident and Paul, was left alone to nurse his grief.

In the days to follow, Paul notices some oddities around the house. Lorelei, the couple’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, was the only witness to the accident. Pa
Molly Woods
May 29, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book? Don't marry a woman who creates artsy masks for a living because she will attempt and/or succeed at suicide. If someone who makes arty masks for a living doesn't at first succeed at suicide, he/she should try harder. I also learned: don't try and make your dog talk. Why? Because dogs can't talk. Even if you do terrible, terrible things to them, surgical-wise. Similarly, if someone attached a whale penis to you, you wouldn't be able to sex on a lady whale. You'd jus ...more
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People intrigued by the blurb who can stomach a book that deals with animal abuse
This book was NOT what I thought it would be. And that's a compliment.

Paul's wife Lexy is dead. She fell out of an apple tree. The police have ruled it an accident. Paul is devastated. He's in mourning. Why was she in the apple tree anyway?

Soon, he starts noticing strange circumstances surrounding her death. An empty frying pan on the floor and a steak missing. All their books have been rearranged. What does it mean?

The only witness to Lexy's death is her dog, Lorelei, an 8-year-old Rhodesian R
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction
This is hands down my favorite novel, maybe not of all time, but definitely of anything I've read in the last few years (and that encompasses a fair amount of books). It is so moving and so well written. The language is beautiful. Every sentence made me think, "Damn. Wish I'd written that!" Very lovely, poetic, heartbreaking. I can't say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended. It's about a man's grief and attempts to learn what really happened after his wife's sudden death. Didn' ...more
Linguistics professor Paul Iverson comes home one day to find his wife, Lexy, lying dead below the apple tree. The only witness is his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lorelei. Did Lexy fall from the tree or did she commit suicide? What was she even doing up in the apple tree? After the police rule it an accident, Paul sets out to try to teach Lorelei to speak so she can tell him what she witnessed that afternoon. During Paul's crusade to make Lorelei speak we see events from the past tell a story of how Pa ...more
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Above and beyond any opinions formed, Carolyn Parkhurst takes an incredible risk in her debut novel: a series of risks that in and of itself sets this book apart from others, in this reader's experience. And while the risks the author took worked for my reading preferences, for some they won't. While this book is by no means a difficult read as far as word choice and literature goes, even the most sensitive of readers upon turning the last page will have missed at least one thing that makes this ...more
Mar 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy torturing their pets?
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite the fact that its about dogs, it is probably one of the best "dog" novels I've ever read. The creature is seen through a lens, not of cuteness or innate personification, but as an amulet, as an enigma too.

Despite the fact that the couple at the center of this book are, yeah, privileged, we truly believe the love that exists even after one of them dies.

And despite the plot taking a semioutlandish turn... I believe the pain the husband feels for his wife. In the search for answers we get
A delicious debut novel intellectual enough to bypass labels like ‘women’s fiction’ and ‘mystery’, though it has touches of both. One thing that sets it apart is how successfully Parkhurst writes from the perspective of a male narrator, Paul Iverson, who’s been knocked for six by the sudden death of his wife Lexy, a mask designer. While he was at the university where he teaches linguistics, she climbed to the top of the apple tree in their backyard and – what? fell? or jumped? The only ‘witness’ ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
The Art of Racing in the Rain meets The Time Traveller's Wife. An exploration of marriage, communication, love, loss, grief. Kind of sidles up to canine-human communication as a metaphor for the difficulty of knowing someone else, understanding who they are, what they're saying, what it means as a relationship begins and develops. Going in, I thought this was the central theme but it evolved differently than I expected.

The book is manipulative, there's no getting around it, in the same way as R
*****There may be some spoilers, but this review is not a synopsis****

I'm not sure why I decided to make this my first written review on GR. Maybe it is because this story conflicts in defining mental illness, artists and Tarot cards so harshly that it sandpapered my brain, or maybe it's an easy way to get my feet wet. Recently I've shied away from reading best sellers and books with 'O' stickers on them for varied reasons. It's been a slow summer and I haven't been sleeping well so I thumbed t
Apr 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is a really beautiful and rather gentle portrait of grief. It's about a linguistics professor whose wife falls to her death out of their apple tree in their backyard, with only their dog as a witness. In the year following her loss, the professor copes by trying to teach his dog to speak - knowing full well that it's a little nuts - in the hopes of learning if she really fell, or let herself fall. He's not crazy, nor is the story cheesy, but as complex and difficult as real life and lo ...more
Ally Armistead
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elyse
Enjoyed this book immensely, and finished in two days. It's a contemporary novel, lyrically written. It's a beautiful masterpiece of paper mache masks, linguistics, codes in book titles, incongruities at a crime scene, patterns in language, the love of a dog, canine speech, canine abuse, mental illness, fear of bringing children into the world, marriage, issues of openness and honesty, grief, mystery, and letting go. Ultimately, it's an exploration in how we go through the many stages of losing ...more
Tiger Gray
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is beautiful. Its imagery is rich and captivating. Lexy, the main character's wife, makes masks for a living and this whole book is one long masquerade.

It also contains one of the most poignant and realistic treatments of mental illness I've ever read. I identified with Lexy very strongly and have been in her position many times. As she spirals further and further in to her inner nightmare she acts out impulsively, in rage, in sorrow, never truly comprehending her own actions. She is
Jun 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody who likes depressing stuff
One of my favorite books ever. I don't know if any book I've read has hit me so hard in the chestal region as this one. I was so emotionally invested in this book, and when I re-read it again recently, it was no different. The entire last 30 or so pages of the book I was just crying, trying to read through my tears. For me, what this book is basically about is a man trying to cope with the death of his wife, and about putting the pieces together to figure out how and why exactly she died. I love ...more
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up in a bookstore last summer, and I began reading it while waiting for my companions. While I've read many mystery novels, this one seemed unique and stuck in my mind even after replacing it on the shelf just a few pages in.

I was surprised when I finally purchased this book nearly a year later to find that it is a lot more than a mystery novel and more than just a story (albeit a great one) about grief and loss. It is also a story about romance, mental illness, fear of bringi
I read this very quickly not because it was bad but because I wanted to find out 'what happened' and after I'd got over the doginess parts (I'm a cat person) and appriciated them for what they were the story just streamed through my mind.

Paul and Lexy and are seemingly happily married, everything is going well for them, then tragedy strikes and Lexy dies in an apparant accident, the only witness is Lorelei the couples dog, and of course she can't tell.

In his grief Paul slips slowly into a dark
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We're getting nearer, We're nearing the end, of course you've known that, you've known that since the beginning, from the very first sentence I spoke. I'm tensing up as we get closer, I can feel myself wanting to slow down and and speed up at the same time."

This is a quote from the next to last chapter of this book - and I feel these words capture my exact feeling toward the end of this emotional book. I picked this book up, because in the 30 seconds it took me to peruse the back of the paperba
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Anyone who has ever experienced an emotional bond with a pet (and who has worked in academia) will enjoy this wonderfully poetic novel. Parkhurst weaves a tale of love, devotion, and grief together with the underpinning belief that 'science' - and scientific research - can provide all the answers. But can it?
Rachel Brown
Yes, it's another mainstream bestseller which is actually sf. Slipstream, anyway.

Paul's wife Lexy plummets from an apple tree in their yard and dies. There are mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, but the only witness is their dog Lorelei. As in this world, dogs have occasionally been taught to talk, Paul tries to teach Lorelei to talk in order to find out what happened to Lexy.

Flashbacks to their nauseatingly cute courtship and marriage ensue. Lexy (lexicon, get it?) made masks. Mask
May 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a animal lover this was a very emotional book for me. There were lots of similarities between my mom and Lexy and Rascal and Lorlei, and Paul and Lorlei to David and Rascal. Anyway, like Lorelei we rescued Rascal who had been sitting in the exact same spot on the side of the road for over two weeks and finally my mom (on our way to Sunday School) stopped (in church clothes) and rescued this dog. He, like Lorlei, had been obviously beaten and then abandoned.

Rascal ended up being one of the bi
Kristin Little
May 27, 2007 rated it liked it
The Dogs of Babel is a beautiful and tragic tale of love and loss. The slow revealing of the main couple's past is well woven and easily believeable. The completely crazy part was the talking dog theme that Carolyn Parkhurst overreached on...

In the book, The main character (Paul Iverson), devastated by the loss of his dearly loved wife, makes a desperate attempt to make sense of her death by trying to teach his dog to talk. What at first is a poigniant and heart-rending (albeit futile) struggle
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This may not be everyman's book, but it struck deep chords with me.
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
I wish I could give this book higher than a five. Or I wish I could go back to all the other books I've ever rated and knock them down a notch. Nothing I've read before quite matches up to this book.

I browsed through some other ratings online, before I started reading the book, and was surprised at the amount of people who rolled their eyes at the topic. I immediately knew it was a good topic for me. So many times I've wanted to know what my own dogs were thinking, and I think it was a nice, fr
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing this book, I went into such a funk. Had I seen a Hallmark commercial of any kind, I probably would have started bawling.

However, this is not to say that this book isn't fantastic. It absolutely is. This book made me think and it touched me in an obvious way. This is a quite a different reaction from many of the other books I have read, which are often meaningless ways to pass some time.

This is a story about an incredibly deep romance between two people. The two participants are s
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, strange, sad, beautiful... I read some of the other reviews posted, and I didn't see a single one that mentioned the humor. Yes, the whole sci-fi flavored dog experiment thing in the middle of the book is bizarre and a little incongruous, but was nobody else laughing? What I enjoyed was the ridiculousness of Paul's quest to teach his dog to talk, juxtaposed against the beauty and sadness of the tragic love affair between him and his wife.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: shallow people into yoga
Shelves: fiction
This is the May-December romance between a cardboard cut-out of Eeyore, "the sad donkey," and the wife he obsesses over, the dream diary of a 14-year-old Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Follow these 2D characters as they ride what looks to be an interesting sheep from the book flap but is actually one ugly wolf of shallow melodrama.

I rarely feel so insulted and disgusted by a book, but everything about Dogs of Babel feels like lies. We've all experienced grief and the feeling of isolation and perhaps ev
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Carolyn Parkhurst is an American author who has published two books. Her first, the 2003 best-seller The Dogs of Babel, was a New York Times Notable Book. She followed that effort with Lost and Found in June 2006.

Parkhurst received her B.A. degree from Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from American University.

She currently resides in Washington, D.C.
“Suicide is just a moment, Lexy told me. This is how she described it to me. For just a moment, it doesn't matter that you've got people who love you and the sun is shining and there's a movie coming out this weekend that you've been dying to see. It hits you all of a sudden that nothing is ever going to be okay, ever, and you kind of dare yourself. You pick up a knife and press it gently to your skin, you look out a nineteenth-story window and you think, I could just do it. I could just do it. And most of the time, you look at the height and you get scared, or you think about the poor people on the sidewalk below - what if there are kids coming home from school and they have to spend the rest of their lives trying to forget this terrible thing you're going to make them see? And the moment's over. You think about how sad it would've been if you never got to see that movie, and you look at your dog and wonder who would've taken care of her if you had gone. And you go back to normal. But you keep it there in your mind. Even if you never take yourself up on it, it gives you a kind of comfort to know that the day is yours to choose. You tuck it away in your brain like sour candy tucked in your cheek, and the puckering memory it leaves behind, the rough pleasure of running your tongue over its strange terrain, is exactly the same.... The day was hers to choose, and perhaps in that treetop moment when she looked down and saw the yard, the world, her life, spread out below her, perhaps she chose to plunge toward it headlong. Perhaps she saw before her a lifetime of walking on the ruined earth and chose instead a single moment in the air” 189 likes
“The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.” 98 likes
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