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Carolyn Parkhurst : The Dogs of Babel (Today Show Book Club #12)

Author: Carolyn Parkhurst
Title: The Dogs of Babel (Today Show Book Club #12)
Copies worldwide:
Published in: English
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 264
Date: 2003-06-13
ISBN: 0316168688
Publisher: Little, Brown
Latest: 2015/05/11
Weight: 0.8 pounds
Size: 1.0 x 5.75 x 8.63 inches
Edition: First Edition
Amazon prices:
Previous givers:
Previous moochers:
2dana (USA: NM), Anna Willett (USA: VA).
Description: Product Description
When his wife dies in a fall from a tree in their backyard, linguist Paul Iverson is wild with despair. In the days that follow, Paul becomes certain that Lexy's death was no accident. Strange clues have been left behind: unique, personal messages that only she could have left and that he is determined to decipher. So begins Paul's fantastic and even perilous search for the truth, as he abandons his everyday life to embark on a series of experiments designed to teach his dog Lorelei to communicate. Is this the project of a madman? Or does Lorelei really have something to tell him about the last afternoon of a woman he only thought he knew?... Review
The quirky premise of Carolyn Parkhurst's debut novel, The Dogs of Babel, is original enough: after his wife Lexy dies after falling from a tree, linguistics professor Paul Iverson becomes obsessed with teaching their dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Lorelei (the sole witness to the tragedy), to speak so he can find out the truth about Lexy's death--was it accidental or did Lexy commit suicide?

In short, accelerating chapters Parkhurst alternates between Paul's strange and passionate efforts to get Lorelei to communicate and his heartfelt memories of his whirlwind relationship with Lexy. The first 100 pages or so bring to mind another noteworthy debut, Alice Sebold's brilliant exploration of grief, The Lovely Bones. Unfortunately, the second half of The Dogs of Babel takes too many odd twists and turns--everything from a Ms. Cleo-like TV psychic to an underground sect of abusive canine linguists--to ever allow the reader to feel any real sympathy for the main characters. Parkhurst's Paul Iverson can certainly be appealing at times, and his heartbreak is often quite palpable ("...for every dark moment we shared between us, there was a moment of such brightness I almost could not bear to look at it head-on."). But his mask-maker wife Lexy--Paul's driving inspiration--is a character whose spur-of-the-moment outbursts, spontaneous fits of anger, and supposedly charming sense of whimsy (on their first date, they drive from Virginia to Disney World, eating only appetizers and side dishes along the way), become so annoying and grating that it's hard to believe anyone could ever put up with her, let alone teach their dog to speak for her.

Despite its cloying tone, The Dogs of Babel marks a notable debut. Parkhurst possesses a wealth of inspired ideas, and no doubt many readers will respond to the book, but one hopes that the author's future efforts will be packed with richer character development and less schmaltz. --Gisele Toueg

Reviews: Kerri (USA: OH) (2006/12/22):
I'm an animal lover, so the subplot that dealt with the subculture that abused animals was tough to read. The main story, though, was captivating and Parkhurst did a pheonomenal job describing the mental state of the characters.

Kellie (USA: NC) (2007/05/19):
This man falls in love with a woman who is mentally disturbed. She is found dead in their back yard and the husband tried to figure out what happened. Their dog is the only witness. Foolishly he thinks he can get the dog to tell him what happened. Odd book. Interesting plot.

Lynda (USA: PA) (2008/07/10):
This was a selection by my book club. It is a very unusual story with unexpexted twists.

Kat (USA: IL) (2009/06/29):
Loved it! My favorite book EVER! Brings to light in a quirky way the issue of mental illness. A very short read with a twisted little plot and poignant message.

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