Saturday, October 10, 2009
Book Review: Dogs of Babel
Carolyn Parkhurst has a handle on dialogue, and I'm a sucker for excellent dialogue. The Dogs of Babel is the story of a man's quest to find out the circumstances behind his wife's death. Paul comes home from work one day to find police at his house; his wife has fallen to her death from a tree in the backyard. The police says it was an accident based on the position in which she fell, but Paul isn't so sure. The only witness to Lexy's death is Lorelei, the couple's dog.
This is why I thought I wouldn't finish the book: at this point, Paul, a linguistics professor, decides to teach the dog to talk so that she can tell him what really happened to Lexy. But I kept reading, because at this point I was greatly appreciative of Parkhurst's skills with dialogue, and Paul was a very likable character. To my relief, the parts about Paul actually trying to teach the dog to talk were minimal. The rest of the book flashes between Paul's grieving process and obsession to find out how Lexy died, including his attempts to teach Lorelei to talk, and flashbacks to his life with Lexy. These flashbacks were fantastic and created an even greater sympathy for Paul. I was actually hoping Lorelei would talk eventually so he'd figure everything out.
There are some strange scenes with a secret society of pseudo-scientists who operate on dogs to make them talk, but on the whole I thought this was a really enjoyable novel. The love story behind the mysterious death is well worth the read.