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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  97,368 ratings  ·  13,748 reviews
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 thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turm ...more
Hardcover, 566 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  97,368 ratings  ·  13,748 reviews

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Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Older teens and adults
Recommended to Red by: newspaper review
Shelves: animal, kindle-books
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
Will Byrnes
Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Will by: my wife
This is an extraordinary novel, Hamlet 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
William Ramsay
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Timothy Juhl
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Melody by: Bobbi B
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
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
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.)
Aug 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
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Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Joy D
Edgar, a boy who can hear but not speak, lives with his mother, Trudy, his father, Gar, and his dog, Almondine, on a farm in rural Wisconsin. The story takes place mostly in the 1970’s when Edgar is a teen, with flashbacks to earlier times. Edgar’s family has bred and sold Sawtelle dogs, a fictional breed, for generations. These dogs are notable for their training, temperament, and intelligence. Edgar leads a happy life on the farm until his Uncle Claude arrives to stay with them while he gets h ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
J.K. Grice
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I have to agree with Stephen King on this one. THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE is a fine novel. Wroblewski weaves an impressive tale full of solid characters and vivid locales. 9 years later, this book still pops into my head from time to time.
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
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
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-books
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
May 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: dog-books, novels

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
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5? Will get back to you on that review. Need to absorb story. Simmer in the appreciation. Reminisce on the reading I somewhat reluctantly finished.
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
"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
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Play Book Tag: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - 4 stars 9 27 Jun 16, 2019 08:53PM  
Constant Reader 3 42 May 12, 2019 05:36AM  
Will someone please tell me how this book ends? SPOILER ALERT!! 49 988 Oct 29, 2018 02:31PM  
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle 31 351 Apr 03, 2018 06:44PM  
Play Book Tag: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - 4.5 Stars 13 34 Mar 24, 2016 09:47AM  

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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. ...more

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