It’s Hamlet with dogs. No, no, stay with me here.
David Wroblewski’s Oprah Book Club novel, “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” centers on young Edgar, born mute but able to communicate to both his parents and their specially bred dogs by way of their own unique sign language. Despite his disability, Edgar has a very special place in the Sawtelles’ business of dog breeding (the dogs that are at the heart of the book are a fictional breed that are marked by both their born-in intelligence and their Sawtelle-issued training). Yet, all of that is thrown into utter turmoil when his beloved father, Gar, dies mysteriously (on the heels of his bad-news brother, Claude, returning to the farm) – and Claude soon takes up with Edgar’s mother, despite Edgar’s suspicions that he somehow caused his father’s death. A series of even more wrenching events force Edgar and three dogs (including his beloved Almondine) to flee into the desolate Wisconsin woods around their farm, before Edgar finally realizes that he must return and uncover the truth about Gar and Claude.
The book weaves together narratives from different people and timeframes, while also detailing the creation of the specialty breed, along with plenty of flashbacks involving the precise training of the dogs. Boring? Nope. “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is an incredibly beautiful piece of literature that’s also intelligent and satisfying. It might also be impossible to film, but that doesn’t appear to be tripping up Wentworth Miller, who is in negotiations to script a cinematic adaptation of the book for Universal.
THR reports that the actor (who also penned the upcoming Stoker) is in talks to adapt the book for the screen. A first draft was penned by William Broyles Jr. (Apollo 13), though it’s unknown at this time if Miller would work from that or start over fresh. Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are producing via their Playtone banner, along with Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte, who will produce for Harpo Films.
And while the book might seem hard to adapt, what an Edgar Sawtelle adaptation could offer in terms of cinematic virtues is profound. The role of Edgar could be a tremendous breakout part for a young actor, the role of Claude could afford its actor a calling card villain role, and Almondine – oh, Almondine – her presence alone could make this film worthwhile, because Almondine is already one of modern literature’s most wonderful animal characters, and that would simply have to carry over to a film.
You get that I love this book, right?
You can get a look inside the book over at Amazon, though you should probably just do yourself a favor and pick up the whole thing now.