"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" – the Hamlet-inspired tale of a mute boy growing up in a dog-rearing family in rural Wisconsin by first-time novelist David Wroblewski – has been selected by Oprah Winfrey as her latest book club pick. In literary terms, the success of this debut novel is the equivalent of seeing a rookie slam a homerun out of the park his first time up at the plate.
Wroblewski labored over the book for 10 years and has told interviewers that it was so personal that he feared it would never find a publisher. And yet it did, and became an immediate success when released earlier this summer (helped by glowing advance reviews: Stephen King said he "flat-out loved it" while Publisher's Weekly proclaimed the book to be "in a class by itself.")
In writing the book, Wroblewski was shaped by his own life and enthusiasms, he told Monitor book critic Yvonne Zipp in an audio interview. His parents raised dogs (as do Edgar’s family) and Wroblewski grew up in rural Wisconsin. He is a reader and loves Shakespeare and Rudyard Kipling – both of whose influences can be seen in the book.
The canine protagonist of the story, Wroblewski says, was inspired by the dog he lives with now – an animal he describes as exceptional, even in the context of a lifetime spent with wonderful dogs.
According to Publishers Weekly, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" currently has 300,000 copies in print, but its publisher, Ecco says that following the Oprah announcement the book is going back to press for an additional 750,000 copies.
Winfrey herself says, " I think this book is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written."