October 09, 2012

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

I majored in Linguistics, so after reading the premise of this novel, and discovering the main character was a Linguist, I of course had to read it.  Well it turns out that there's not much about linguistics in this novel, but it was still a very good read.

Paul Iverson falls for Lexy pretty quickly.  Having been married before, he doesn't think she'll be interested in him, but he decides that whimsical artist Lexy is for him.  And surprisingly, she likes him back.  So when one fateful day, he comes home to find police in his home and Lexy dead in the backyard, having fallen from an apple tree, his world is set into chaos.  But there's little things changed about the house that he notices and it leads him to believe that there was more to her fall than he thought.  But the only witness was their dog Lorelei, and she can't tell him what happened, at least not right now when he hasn't begun to teach her to speak to him.

Paul is a pretty tragic character.  You can see his mind working through the grief and even the grief making him change and do things he might not consider doing otherwise.  It's very realistic.  He also shows an amazing amount of patience with Lexy and it actually restores my faith in humanity a little more to know there are people out there that accept their significant others for who they are.  Granted this is a character in a book, but I'm sure there are real life people like him out there.  Lexy, I found very selfish.  Even though we only really view her through Paul's memories she was kind of manic and it just really instilled how much patience he actually had.  There are other side characters in this book, but none I really connected to; it was just Paul and the dog Lorelei for the most of it.  And that was fine, they were all that was needed to tell the story.

The whole plot was the mystery of Lexy's death, but I think that it also included the emotions and grieving process Paul was going through.  And for the most part it was realistic, a person that upset would want to find out what happened, even if it means that he wants to teach his dog to talk.  Desperation makes people do strange things.  I should note that there are some tough subjects in this book; suicide, animal cruelty, violence.  And the animal cruelty is sad and sometimes described vividly, it was hard to stomach the thought of it.  But the overall story was well told and it definitely made you feel something as you were reading it.

I would read more by this author.  This book, while sad, was very well written and explored a lot of emotions.

The Dogs of Babel
Copyright 2003
261 pages

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