David Wroblewski’s “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” set on a family farm in a remote part of northern Wisconsin.
The Sawtelles have bred dogs on their land for generations. Gar and Trudy have taught their mute son, Edgar, all about the special breed they train and raise. He’s in charge of grooming and naming the dogs and forms strong bonds with them, especially Almondine who becomes Edgar’s best friend and protector. The boy and dog share a special connection, where they can read each other’s emotions effortlessly.
When Gar’s brother, Claude, returns to the family homestead, their troubled relationship sends ripples of tension through the once peaceful family.
Claude ends up leaving the farm, but when Gar suddenly dies, he returns, taking more control over the business as well as maneuvering his way into Trudy’s heart.
Edgar, filled with grief over the loss of his father, is angered and sickened by his uncle’s intrusion. He suspects Claude had something to do with his father’s death, but doesn’t have words to explain. He needs proof.
What follows is a very long, detailed, well-written tale. Edgar is a lovable character and his relationship with the dogs is one to which any animal lover will relate.
Though this book has gotten a lot of hype, I did have some problems with it. First, it could have been cut by at least 100 pages. Second, and I don’t want to give anything away, but a lot of questions are left unanswered. Third, and this probably happened only to a few people, I read “Sawtelle” after I read Lin Enger’s “Undiscovered Country,” another modernized “Hamlet.” “Sawtelle” is a much different story, but the basic plot is still the same and at this point, I’m definitely over the “Hamlet” story line.
“The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is worth picking up. While the book is lengthy, the descriptions are beautiful, add in the charming Edgar and the unusual Sawtelle dogs and you have a winner — with or without Oprah’s recommendation by the way. It was on the best-seller list before she got to it.
For those who fall in love with the Sawtelles, there is more to come. Wroblewski is writing a prequel. The new book will be the second in a trilogy. No word yet on a publication date.