The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Indie Next ListJuly 2008
This story of a modern-day Hamlet, set in the northern woods of Wisconsin, reaches depths of emotion rare in any novel, much less a debut. Driven by powerful characters, particularly the mute Edgar and the amazing dog Almondine, this story of a family's destruction will resonate with readers long after completion. -- Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
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, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm—and into Edgar's mother's affections.
Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires—spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.
About the Author
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.
Praise for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle…
“A stunning first novel…a ranging story that is part coming of age, part mystery and part tragedy on the order of Hamlet…Wroblewski executes with elan, building an addicting tale peopled by fully dimensional characters. He carries the reader, with authority and confidence, on a thought-provoking ride.”
“…a stunningly well-written novel…”
“The author’s spellbinding first novel…is nearly impossible to put down.”
-Kirkus Reviews, First Fiction Special
The Great American Novel is something like a unicorn—rare and wonderful, and maybe no more than just a notion. Yet every few years or so, we trip across some semblance of one.... [an] extraordinary debut.
“A literary thriller with commercial legs, this stunning debut is bound to be a bestseller.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A stately, wonderfully written debut novel…[Wroblewski] takes an intense interest in his characters; takes pains to invest emotion and rough understanding in them; and sets them in motion with graceful language… a boon for dog lovers, and for fans of storytelling that eschews flash. Highly recommended.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An excruciatingly captivating read…Ultimately liberating, though tragic and heart-wrenching, this book is unforgettable.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.... Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying….I don’t re-read many books, because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one.”
“I doubt we’ll see a finer literary debut this year than The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Wroblewski’s got storytelling talent to burn and a big, generous heart to go with it.”
-Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Empire Falls
“The most enchanting debut novel of the summer....a great, big, mesmerizing read, audaciously envisioned as classic Americana...One of the great pleasures of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is its free-roaming, unhurried progress, enlivened by the author’s inability to write anything but guilelessly captivating prose.
-New York Times
“In this beautifully written novel, David Wroblewski creates a remarkable hero who lives in a world populated as much by dogs as by humans, governed as much by the past as by the present. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a passionate, absorbing and deeply surprising debut.”
-Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
“Edgar Sawtelle is a boy without a voice, but his world, populated by the dogs his family breeds, is anything but silent. This is a remarkable story about the language of friendship—a language that transcends words.”
-Dalia Sofer, bestselling author of The Septembers of Shiraz
“The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a wooly, unlikely, daring book, and wildly satisfying.”
-Mark Doty, New York Times bestselling author of Dog Years
“This luminescent story has the kind of sprawling, wide-lens focus that readers think of when they talk about the so-called ‘great American novel.’”
-Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Don’t let the book’s massive size fool you: This is a good old-fashioned coming-of-age yarn. Grade: A
“…here is a big-hearted novel you can fall into, get lost in and finally emerge from reluctantly, a little surprised that the real world went on spinning while you were absorbed...grand and unforgettable.”
-Washington Post Book World
“Whether you read for the beauty of language or for the intricacies of plot, you will easily fall in love with David Wroblewski’s generous, almost transcendentally lovely debut novel...the scope of this book, its psychological insight and lyrical mastery, make it one of the best novels of the year....”
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