This one's been gathering dust on my shelf for years. I don't have a first edition, but I do have it in hardcover, which tells me I bought it sometime in 2008, the year it was published. I know I put off reading it because I wanted to reread Hamlet first; this novel is a retelling of that Shakespearean tragedy. But one thing led to another, and first I didn't read Hamlet, then I read Hamlet but had other books waiting, and before I knew it, it was 2017 and I still hadn't read it.
And so I did, even though it's been a few years since I read Hamlet. I have to wonder if I'd've liked it better when it was first published and was a bit of an "it" book than I did so many years later. It started off fine, the story of Edgar Sawtelle, a boy who is mute but not deaf, being raised by parents who breed a special (and fictional) kind of dog. His father dies, and gradually his uncle steps into the household, becoming increasingly important and influential over Edgar's mother. Edgar begins seeing apparitions of his father in the rain and suspects his father's death was not natural. If you know Hamlet, you know the story.
To be fair, I liked the first half of the book. Edgar's life with both his parents in a rural Wisconsin setting is interesting, as are the tales of breeding and training these unique dogs (yes, I'm a dog person; my nearly-16-years-old border collie is gently snoring and farting next to me while I write this). But even early on, there were scenes that felt longer than they needed to be, and descriptions that, while well-written, began to feel self-indulgent. Even the dog training scenes began to be repetitive and boring. By the second half of the book, when a crisis erupts and Edgar strikes out on his own with three of the dogs, my patience began to wear thin. Edgar's time on the road was just one episode after another, none of them adding up to much other than word count. He meets someone who helps him and who, predictably, Edgar helps too. And the ending--sigh. Sloggingly detailed and ultimately anti-climactic.
Well, a really old book off my shelf. That's something, right?