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The Dogs of Babel: A Novel Paperback – June 7, 2004
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
You've probably read how this book is about a man, Paul Iverson, who is trying to teach his dog to tell him why his wife died in a fall ... but it's not a gimmicky book. It's about grieving, self-examination, love, and how complicated people and relationships can be. People complain that there are plot events that are unrealistic or far-fetched, but I'd contend that they are missing the point: this is the most emotionally honest book I've come across recently. As the reader learns more about Paul and his wife, he becomes more invested in Paul's plight, so much so that the pain is real and raw. If you want to feel for a character in a novel, then this book is certainly for you.
The caveat, though, is that The Dogs of Babel is an intense experience, which may not be for you depending on your current circumstances. If I had recently experienced a loss, I doubt I could've gotten through it at all (at least without a breakdown). I'd also be careful if you're feeling emotionally fragile since I can't get it out of my head three days later with no end in sight for me (when was the last time a book hung around with you for some time after you finished it?).
Lexy's character is certainly the most compelling, not the least because of her having died in the opening sentence. Lexy is complex in the most satisfying way, both laughter and sorrow, sunshine and darkness. Her appeal drives the novel, and we as readers wnat to know more about her. We, like Paul, want to unravel the mystery not only of her death, but of Lexy herself.
Unfortunately, Paul himself seems more alive (and believeable) in the flashbacks with Lexy. Alone with their dog, Lorelei, in the absence of Lexy, Paul is not just a figure of grief, but a character who seems too much an inhabitant of the page. That is, the flashbacks seem to be a part of a world, a fictive reality where we believe the characters continue on after we stop reading about them. But the Paul of the present seems too much a writer's sketch, and the second half of the book is fraught with worse sins of writing.
The passages about Wendell Hollis and the Cerberus Society are very nearly unreadable, and don't bear explanation here. The psychic, Lady Arabelle, is likewise an uncomfortable and ill-considered plot device.Read more ›
I can see how animal lovers would be upset at the subplot of surgery performed on beloved dogs but I would say that it's far from "graphic", disturbing yes but only because the author's writing is so real that we believe this to be happening. At that point in the story, we as the reader have become attached to Lorelei and fear for her.
I found myself hoping Paul would snap out of it but knowing that dealing with grief is not an overnight process Many reviewers have critizied him for being so blind to Lexi's obvious instability, but when you are in love, you want so badly to overlook those flaws. Her rages were few and far between so that he could almost forget them but near the end he begins to notice how difficult it was living with her moods. I think Lexi felt his drifting and decided to set him free by killing herself. Twisted but to a disturbed person you can see how she knew she was a burden to their love. Flashback to Disney and she talks about how she "ruined everything" by getting upset.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved this book. It was beautifully written, and my goodness, did it make me feel. I agree with others that the modern day scenes weren't quite as satisfying. Read morePublished 29 days ago by SCOTUS fan
I really enjoyed this book, however I felt as though the weird subplot with the underground dog experiments was a bit unnecessary. Read morePublished 5 months ago by REMYKARMEN
Any reader of this book who did not cry his eyes out at the end of this story is some hard-hearted person! The plot was truly unusual and engaging, and the writing was charming..Published 6 months ago by Ellen Q. Suria
This rather strange book concerned with the sudden death of thirty-something, quirky Lexy and her husband’s subsequent almost desperate attempt to explain her death is not without... Read morePublished 7 months ago by J. Grattan
A book that you fall into, read faster than intended, and enjoyably reflect upon. Similar to "The Accidental Tourist" and "The Time-Traveler's Wife," this book will... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Meghan
One of the best books I've ever read. Those in grief will relate.Published 8 months ago by Ann H. McRae
Very moving, very funny and truly unique plot line. I think this is a story about processing grief in one's own manner, but it is neither heavy handed nor maudlin.Published 12 months ago by Sophie Tallis
I read this book after seeing the author in an interview shortly after its release...It breaks many of the "rules" of modern literature. Read morePublished 12 months ago by chefdana