The wonderful St. Murse loaned me his copy of David Wroblewski's first novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (2008), so he gets the friend of the month prize for knowing what I would like to read. Congratulations, Murse!
I didn't know anything about this book going into it except that it had also been recommended to me by Dr. M's sister, and that it takes place in Wisconsin (where I just visited). After looking at the cover of the book, I learned that it is also part of the Oprah bookclub. And it is very long.
The discovery that takes place while reading this book and gradually figuring out where the author is going was so fun and exciting that I don't want to ruin it with too many details about the plot, so I'll keep it brief:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is really the story of the Sawtelle family and their dogs. The Sawtelle's live in rural Wisconsin and have been breeding and training an elite line of dogs for two generations. Gar and Trudy have one son, our protagonist Edgar, who was born mute (although he can hear), and Edgar has one close companion (besides his parents), his dog Almondine. What starts as a pastoral and beautifully descriptive story about the Sawtelle's and their dogs turns into a Shakespearean tragedy with the appearance of Gar's black-sheep brother Claude.
This is a perfectly pitched coming-of-age story that draws on the isolation and beauty of the Wisconsin landscape as a solid foundation for a re-envisioning of a classic plot. Lovely and perfect and satisfyingly tragic.