Friday, January 8, 2010
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Janet Maslin of the New York Times boldly warned me that if I picked up this book, I should expect to feel very, very reluctant to put it down. She was wrong. I did want to put it down. Every time I picked it up and sobbed through a lunch break, I wanted to put it down. Every tear-stained ride on the train made me very, very reluctant to pick the book back up.
But I did.
Because I thought it would be worth it in the end.
I don’t know why I chose this book in the first place. I didn’t know it was a “dog story” or I probably wouldn’t have. I love dogs, but the thing about dogs is: they die. They give us everything they have, they entwine their lives so intricately with our own, they give us love, laughter, adventure, companionship, warmth .... and in return, they get a lifespan a fraction of our own. I get that. I hate it, but we invite them into our hearts anyway, because it’s worth it in the end.
So, I picked up the book time and time again and I let Almondine into my heart despite my best instincts. She reminded me so deeply of my sweet, departed Borderline that I was reduced to puddles each time I saw her name on the page. But I let myself fall in love with her and I prepared myself for the inevitable.
I let the tender, passionate boy, Edgar, into my heart as well. I ached with him and screamed within myself so that he may have a voice. I begrudgingly went along on his journey because I thought, somewhere, somehow, at the end of it all ... it would be worth it.
So I nursed wounds, went hungry, pondered questions, stared into the very grimace of danger for this boy and his dogs. I mopped my own tears and bought more Tylenol for my aching head and I plodded through the Wisconsin woods in search of the truth and safety.
But for all of the things I loved about this book: the author’s beautiful way with words, his understanding of dogs and their relationships with each other and their human companions, the premonitions and ghosts, the adventure and bonding, sadly, it wasn’t worth it in the end.
The book simply ended badly. It was all wrong. Nothing I had put myself through for nearly six hundred pages (no matter how beautiful and well-written) was worth what happened in the end.
Maybe I am a sap. Maybe I really do need the happy ending. Maybe I simply need to know that the bad guy gets punished and the good guy gets his just rewards. Maybe I need to know that the truth matters.
Maybe I just need to know that what I’ve been led to believe for the entirety of a story is the right thing to believe.
What if someone shot Benji at the end of the movie? Or if Lassie jumped into the well to save Timmy and they both just drowned? We can’t take that kind of pain. We don’t deserve it.
An author can’t blatantly drag me kicking and screaming to the edge of a cliff only to push me off.
It’s not fair.
My heart won’t survive that.
It's not worth it in the end.