I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.
At well over 500 pages, I put off reading it until I knew I had a good chunk of time to devote to it (between my book club's selections), but I think I got through it in under two weeks. I had a lot of trouble putting it down.
Set in rural Wisconsin, it tells the story of a small family who raise a fictional breed of dog on their farm. The story mostly centers around Edgar, the son, in the family. He is born unable to speak and communicates in sign and has an extraordinary relationship with the dogs his family breeds - most especially with Almondine, who, although a dog, is Edgar's soulmate, and makes it her responsibility to look after him and be his companion from the time he is born.
Edgar and his family enjoy a mostly peaceful existence until Claude, Edgar's uncle, resurfaces after years of absence. Claude is a somewhat mysterious and sinister person whose re-entrance into the Sawtelle family brings trouble. Eventually Edgar is forced to flee into the wilderness beyond his family's farm, where he comes of age with the three young dogs who accompany him. In the end, Edgar must choose whether to remain away, or to go back home and face the string of disasters that drove him away.
This book is very visual; the characters are richly drawn, the story is multi-layered and so full of beautiful prose that I felt completely drawn in, as if I were there, living and breathing in every scene. Wroblewski's lush descriptions reminded me of Charles Frazier and Kent Haruf. While there is an aspect of the supernatural, it only adds to the richness of the story.
The ending is unexpected and not entirely satisfying, but that's the worst thing I can say about this book. All in all, it's one of the best novels I've read in a long time.
I'm going to hang on to my copy, but I highly recommend this book!