David Wroblewski is the author of the national best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco). An instant best-seller, the book remained on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list for 39 weeks, was the most successful debut novel of 2008, and became the 62nd Oprah Book Club Selection. It garnered remarkable critical acclaim and was named a "Best Book of the Year" by the New York Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, People, Entertainment Weekly, Miami Herald, and Chicago Tribune.
Wroblewski has become a sought after speaker at libraries, arts and lectures venues, and literary festivals. He grew up in rural Wisconsin, not far from the Chequamegon National Forest where The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is set. He earned his master's degree from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and now lives in Colorado with his partner, the writer Kimberly McClintock, and their dog, Lola.
Epic in scope, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle evokes the ancient kinship between people and dogs, set against the majestic backdrop of the northern Wisconsin wilderness. Born mute, speaking in a sign language of his own invention, Edgar Sawtelle has led an idyllic childhood on his parents' remote farm, where, for generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful presence is exemplified by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong companion. During the summer of his fourteenth year, Edgar seems poised to excel in his family's work. He has a way with the dogs, and he has just been given his first litter of pups to raise.
But that summer brings two unexpected visitors: a stray dog who refuses to come in from the wild, and Claude, Edgar's uncle, who cannot seem to tame his own ferocious nature. After his father's untimely death, Edgar's world begins to unravel. He cannot stop blaming himself, if only for failing to call for help. And Claude has begun to insinuate himself into the life of the farm - and into Edgar's mother's affections. One night, in the falling rain, Edgar learns a terrifying secret, and suddenly everything he has known and loved - his mother, the land, the inhabitants and rituals of rural life, and even the dogs themselves - seems filled with mystery. When an ingenious attempt to discover the truth behind his father's death ends in disaster, Edgar flees into the vast Chequamegon wilderness, leading - or perhaps being led by - three yearling dogs.
What follows is an extraordinary coming of age, as Edgar struggles to care for his dogs while the dogs, in turn, teach Edgar what it means to be faithful - at any cost. With summer drawing to a close, they make a final, desperate run for their lives. But his need to face his father's murderer, and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs, turn Edgar ever homeward.
In this masterful novel, Wroblewski brilliantly examines the limits of language and the elemental forces of love, loss, and revenge. At once a riveting adventure and a multi-layered family saga, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a bold, ambitious novel that will captivate readers from its mysterious opening to its breathtaking finale.
Praise for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle:
"...the most enchanting debut novel of the summer. Written over a decade by the heretofore unknown David Wroblewski and arriving as a bolt from the blue, this is a great, big, mesmerizing read, audaciously envisioned as classic Americana... the voice heard in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle sounds like no one else's as this book creates its enthralling, warmly idiosyncratic story... One of the great pleasures of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is its free-roaming, unhurried progress, enlivened by the author's inability to write anything but guilelessly captivating prose... A great, big, mesmerizing read... Pick this book up and expect to feel very, very reluctant to put it down."
-- Janet Maslin, New York Times
"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 . . . grand and unforgettable."
-- Washington Post Book World (cover review)
"I doubt we'll see a finer literary debut this year than The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Wroblewski's got storytelling talent to burn and a big, generous heart to go with it."
-- Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls
"Brilliant... Wroblewski's literary skill is most apparent in his intoxicating descriptions of the bucolic setting... he handles his task with impressive subtlety."
-- New York Times Book Review
"I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I thought of Hamlet when I was reading it, and Watership Down, and The Night of the Hunter, and The Life of Pi - but halfway through, I put all comparisons aside and let it just be itself. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It's over, you think, and I won't read another one this good for a long, long time. Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying. . . . I don't re-read many books, because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one."
-- Stephen King
"In this debut novel, Wroblewski illustrates the relationship between man and canine (at times, from the dog's point of view) in a way that is both lyrical and unsentimental, and demonstrates an ability to create a coherent, captivating fictional world in which even supernatural elements feel entirely persuasive."
-- The New Yorker
"Whether you read for the beauty of language or for the intricacies of plot, you will easily fall in love with David Wroblewski's generous, almost transcendentally lovely debut novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. . . The scope of this book, its psychological insight and lyrical mastery, make it one of the best novels of the year, and a perfect, comforting joy of a book for summer."
-- O magazine
"The Great American Novel is something like a unicorn - rare and wonderful, and maybe no more than just a notion. Yet every few years or so, we trip across some semblance of one. Oof! What's this? Why, it's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, a sprawling skein of a yarn about a farm nestled up against the forest primeval, aka the Chequamegon in northern Wisconsin, a place where the drama of nature unfolds daily, ceaselessly - recorded here with preternatural awareness, as if witnessed for the very first time."
"[A] must-read: an enthralling literary saga about a mute Wisconsin teen and his eerily intelligent dogs on the run after a death in the family. All that, plus echoes of Hamlet."
"Young Edgar, born mute, lives with his parents on a remote Wisconsin farm, where they raise a rare breed of dog, and has an unusual rapport with a dog named Almondine (who hears baby Edgar wailing even though he makes no sound). Shortly after Edgar's uncle arrives, his father dies suspiciously, leading to the boy's hasty flight from home, three dogs in tow. What follows is a harrowing quest for survival in the woods, one in which no words are spoken - and none needed. Don't let the book's massive size fool you: This is a good old-fashioned coming-of-age yarn. Grade: A."
-- Entertainment Weekly
"With its taproot in Hamlet, this novel spins an engrossing tale of power struggles within a family of Wisconsin dog breeders... whatever its author produces next will definitely be a book to watch out for."
"...the book is poised to be one of the breakout titles of the summer."
-- Wall Street Journal
"An audacious retelling of Hamlet. . . . Wroblewski brings it off with flair. . . The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is, all at once, a mystery, a thriller, a ghost story, and a literary tour de force. . . An authentic epic, long and lush, full of back story and observed detail. . . Once the reader has fallen under his spell . . . the author exercises a certain magic that catches and holds our attention, a magic that is undeniably his own."
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"If you're looking for a new novel to occupy your summer, or a good part of it, look no further. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, all 566 pages, is surprising and rewarding. It's worth savoring, both its story and its storytelling."
-- USA Today
"Edgar Sawtelle is the utterly disarming teenage hero at the center of David Wroblewski's wonderful debut novel of the same name. Set on a small farm in rural Wisconsin, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle takes all kind of risks. The hero is mute, a few chapters are narrated from a dog's point of view, and there are all kinds of ways the novel could have dissolved into a syrupy mess. Instead, Wroblewski creates a tender coming-of-age story and grafts onto it a literary thriller with strong echoes of Shakespeare and The Jungle Book. The result is 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."
-- Christian Science Monitor
"A stunning first novel... a ranging story that is part coming of age, part mystery and part tragedy on the order of Hamlet... Wroblewski executes with élan, building an addicting tale peopled by fully dimensional characters. He carries the reader, with authority and confidence, on a thought-provoking ride."
-- Denver Post
"Colorado-based writer David Wroblewski has been at work at his sprawling debut novel for more than a decade, and the results of his painstaking care are evident in the fascinating world that he's created. His story, filled with fluid, descriptive prose, quickly transports the reader into its timeless setting and rich atmosphere, making the pages fly by... The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a winning debut that will make a great read for the coming - forgive me - dog days of summer. Grade: A-"
-- Rocky Mountain News
"David Wroblewski's rite-of-passage novel sets the standard for fiction about dogs... With David Wroblewski's meaty, masterly debut novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, easily the best work of fiction ever written about dogs (as well as the longest), such works are rendered not just moot, but moribund."
-- Chicago Tribune
"Passionate first novel . . . reading it is like entering a long dream that won't let you out until it's ready. Expect storms, expect a ghost and mysterious events, a riveting trip into the wild with Edgar and three dogs; expect losses and, like Edgar, go where this wonderful novel takes you."
-- Chicago Sun-Times
"This debut novel by David Wroblewski is one of the most stunning, elegant books I have ever read. . . . With The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Wroblewski achieves the iconic dream of so many writers, that of bursting forth (after, of course, years of brutal and anonymous work weaving straw into gold) with what can deservedly be called a great American novel."
-- Houston Chronicle
"This remarkable hybrid seems like an impossibility: an American Hamlet, both ghost story and melodrama, a coming of age tale, a hymn to the land -and, central to it all, some of the best writing about the inner lives of dogs anywhere. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a wooly, unlikely, daring book, and wildly satisfying."
-- Mark Doty, New York Times best-selling author of Dog Years
"David Wroblewski's big tale gets a big telling in his first novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which should come stamped with the cover label "This Summer's Good Old-Fashioned Read."
-- New York Daily News
"For every success like Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres, the Pulitzer Prize-winning update of King Lear, there are scores of failed attempts to channel William Shakespeare in fiction or on screen. The arresting prologue of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the first indication that David Wroblewski might make it work. And by the time readers reach the book's can't-turn-the-pages-fast-enough final chapters, it's clear that Edgar Sawtelle merits a place on the short list of novels that do the 16th-century writer proud..."
-- St. Louis Post-Dispatch