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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Consumed with grief and obsessed with unlocking the mystery of wife Lexy's fatal fall from a backyard apple tree, 43-year-old linguistics professor Paul Iverson describes himself as "a man who wants to know things no human being could tell him." Unsure whether Lexy's death was an accident or suicide and confronted with some puzzling "clues" she left behind, Paul soon undertakes the bizarre and seemingly impossible task of teaching the tragedy's only witness, his beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, to speak. Seamlessly shifting between characters and accents (including a memorable performance as a Southern fortune teller), stage, television and voice-over actor Singer gives an impeccable, unabridged narration. He deftly handles Parkhurst's frequent use of flashbacks to the couple's early courtship and marriages and has a keen ability to vocally reflect the slightest change in mood. While some listeners may find the animal language acquisition subplot farfetched at points, Parkhurst's attention to human emotion and response bring a poignancy to the unique story line that translates well to audio.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I really enjoyed this book, however I felt as though the weird subplot with the underground dog experiments was a bit unnecessary. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Lauren Nicholson
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 1 month 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 2 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 2 months ago by Meghan
One of the best books I've ever read. Those in grief will relate.Published 3 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 6 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 6 months ago by chefdana
Enjoyed the suspense although sad. I would recommend this book to friends. I don't agree with testing on animals in the name of science.Published 7 months ago by Audrey