American Hamlet

From The Washington Post:

Book_2 Sit. Stay. Read. The dog days of summer are nigh, and 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.

You haven’t heard of the author. David Wroblewski is a 48-year-old software developer in Colorado, and this is his first novel. It’s being released with the kind of hoopla once reserved for the publishing world’s most established authors. No wonder: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is an enormous but effortless read, trimmed down to the elements of a captivating story about a mute boy and his dogs. That sets off alarm bells, I know:

Handicapped kids and pets can make a toxic mix of sentimentality. But Wroblewski writes with such grace and energy that Edgar Sawtelle never succumbs to that danger. Inspired improbably by the plot of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” this Midwestern tale manages to be both tender and suspenseful.

The story takes place in a small Wisconsin town where Gar and Trudy Sawtelle happily raise and train their own unusual breed of dogs. The time is the early 1970s, but Wroblewski casts the setting in the sepia tones of an earlier period, as though cut off from the modern age. Their only child is an endearing boy named Edgar, who arrived 14 years ago after a string of miscarriages that almost crushed his mother’s spirit. Edgar cannot speak or make any sounds, but he’s otherwise healthy. To his grateful parents, “it didn’t matter what in him was special and what ordinary. He was alive. . . . Compared to that, silence was nothing.”

More here.