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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All those in favor say "aye".

Two items on today's agenda: The Whistling Season and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

An "aye" goes to The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (2006 Harcourt Books). This story about Paul Milliron, growing up in rural Montana in 1909, is charming and beautifully written. Paul's mother has died, and his father and two younger brothers are struggling to keep the household going. In need of help, a housekeeper from Minneapolis, Rose Llewellyn, is hired. When Rose and her brother, Morris, arrive in Montana the story takes off. The conclusion of The Whistling Season is the only part that sounds a bit off-key in this otherwise very good read.

An "abstain" goes to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (2008 Ecco). This book is getting a lot of positive buzz, including a story in this morning's NYT. I wanted to like it for many reasons, one of which being that the author is from my native state, Wisconsin, and the story takes place there. (Note to those familiar with WI: the linked NYT article states that Wroblewski's ". . . family ran a dog kennel in Oconomowoc, in northern Wisconsin . . . ." There are many good natured arguments about where northern Wisconsin begins, but it is definitely not Oconomowoc, which is a mere 35 miles or so from Milwaukee.)

In the novel Edgar Sawtelle, born mute, is growing up in Mellon, Wisconsin, where his family breeds Sawtelle dogs. Edgar successfully learns to communicate with his parents and with the dogs. A sad blow strikes this little family, and at that point I was finished with the book even though I was at only about page 200 of this 500+ page epic.

What I did read was well written and I liked that snippet very much, which is why I'm a bit ambivalent about this book. It seemed at my stopping point that that things were not going to go well for the characters and I wasn't sufficiently hooked by the story to continue working my way through it. I'm interested to hear the views of people who read and loved the entire, massive, piece. What drew you into this story?

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