The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle


I just finished the almost 570-page novel Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  It took me months to read this mega-novel; especially because I only read at night before bed.  There are some nights when I can’t read at all because I’m just too tired (and this book was heavy – both physically and emotionally – for reading late at night!).  Some nights, I only read a few pages, and then there are times like the night I finished the book – when I actually went to bed around 10:30 just so I could stay up reading for over an hour – and this is how I finally finished the story.

Edgar Sawtelle is an amazing book – it’s almost indescribable.  It took me a few chapters to get into the book however, mainly because of the author’s extremely descriptive writing style.  I wouldn’t say it was boring in the beginning, but the narrative is very detailed, and it took awhile to get used to as well as for any actual events to take place.  Once the action began, though, it didn’t let up, and I was hooked.  It’s one of those books that I looked forward to ending my day with and one I was sorry to finish.  Surprisingly, this is Wroblewski’s first novel!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is set in the early 1970’s in rural northern Wisconsin over one summer.  It follows the life of a mute boy on the brink of manhood who is forced to grow up really quickly due to a set of tragic family circumstances beyond his control.  Edgar’s family has been breeding a special breed of dog for generations, and they do more than just breed the dogs.  Almost from birth, the dogs are very meticulously trained.  The book has been compared to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Although I’ve never read Hamlet, I read a summary, and the stories do sound as if they have similarities.  The descriptive nature of the novel paints a beautiful picture of the Sawtelle’s farm and the countryside beyond.  There are some very well developed characters as well.  That’s as much as I’m going to describe of the story because I realized I’m not doing it justice.  I wouldn’t want to turn off anyone just because I’m writing an unintentionally bad review.  I loved the book; I really did – I’ll go into that more later.  For now, here are some of the raving comments the novel received – most notably from author Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about story-telling himself!

I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. In the end, this isn’t a novel about dogs or heartland America, it’s a novel about the human heart and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate…. I don’t reread many books because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one.”
—Stephen King, author of Duma Key

The most enchanting debut novel of the summer… this is a great, big, mesmerizing read, audaciously envisioned as classic Americana…. Pick up this book and expect to feel very, very reluctant to put it down.
— Janet Maslin, New York Times

Nothing quite compares to my experience of reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This debut…. is one of the most stunning, elegant books I have ever read…. what can deservedly be called a great American novel.
— Lisa Jennifer Selzman, Houston Chronicle

I am completely smitten…. The most hauntingly impressive debut I’ve read all year…. Edgar might be silent, but his story will echo with readers for a long time.
— Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

Overall, a great read, a book I highly recommend.  Be warned however, that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not for the casual reader.  I think that for one to truly enjoy this book, he or she has to be a dedicated reader –  someone who truly enjoys reading and has the time to devote to it, for reading this book is an experience.  If you are at all interested in reading the book, then stop reading my review now because there is something I must add that will be somewhat of a spoiler.


The ending SUCKS.  As much as I truly enjoyed reading the book, the ending came close to ruining the experience for me.  Not because of death, but because of the way it’s handled.  The book ends rather abruptly, and I felt abandoned and ditched as a reader.  There isn’t any closure.  The main character, Edgar, learns and grows so much during the course of the novel, and he takes us readers with him.  But his knowledge isn’t shared with any of the other main characters, mainly his mother!  And his personal growth is also rendered pointless.  And then there’s the very last chapter, seen through the dog Essay’s point of view, which I just didn’t understand AT ALL.  What was Essay’s choice?  I just didn’t get it.  And I know I’m not alone.  It really says something when you do a google search for ‘Edgar Sawtelle ending” and all that comes up is a bunch of complaints from readers.  That being said, I think it’s still worth it to read this book – it was that good where a terrible ending didn’t ruin it.  But it came very close, and I was VERY disappointed when I first finished the book.

5 thoughts on “The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle”

  1. Wait- you have four kids and have time to read a book?? Amazing. 😮

    You must have purchased the book- having to take months to read it sort of makes checking it out of a library useless.

  2. No, no. I wouldn’t purchase a new book for myself; I get books at the thrift store. So I did get this one at the library. Had to check it out 3 times and wait through a list of over a hundred each time. But I’d put my name on the list when I still had a week or so left, so by the third time, I didn’t have to wait very long. Once, I came up on the list on the very day the book was due 🙂 That was a nice surprise. Actually, by the time I checked it out for the third time, the list was down to only about 30. But the first time, it was over two hundred. And between the first and second times I got it, I had to wait over a month – which is one reason why it took so long to read in the first place, 4 kids being the other reason. But I make time to read – I love reading myself to sleep.

  3. Our system goes through libraries across the entire state. Lots of copies, but lots of people too. Some libraries have different borrowing time frames too.

  4. I like reading myself to sleep, too. Color me intrigued… compared to Hamlet in what way, I wonder. I guess 500 page novels would be mega to a mother of four. First novel… is it his only novel… by the sounds of reviews it could go to the heights of To Kill a Mockingbird (if it becomes an only novel)

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