Monday, July 28, 2008

"The Dogs of Babel" by Carolyn Parkhurst

I've been wanting to read this book for a few years, but when I found it for $1 at Half-Priced Books (sorry Caroyln, I know it must be a blow for a writer, when their books are selling for cheaper than a gallon of milk), I picked it up. And read it in an afternoon.
Books, by me, are rarely read in a day. Granted 260 pages isn't exactly super-long, but it's summer. What else am I going to do?
Last year and part of this year, you may recall my drought of reading. I couldn't finish a book for the life of me. This summer, I made damn sure I would finish. Even if the book didn't make me succumb. "The Rule of Four" was less than worthy, but "The Dogs of Babel" was totally worthy. Totally.
Carolyn probably thought one day, "what would happen if someone's wife died and the only one who noticed was the dog?" And, wallah! The book was born. We meet Paul, whose wife, Lexi, has just died and the only one who noticed was their pup Lorelei. Told in Paul's point of view, obviously, the reader goes on his journey as he takes a sabatical and tries to see if he can get Lorelei to tell him exactly what happened.
It's not all science and linguistics, however. If it had been, it would've been like reading a poorly written disertation. Instead, Parkhurst takes every-other-chapter to describe Paul and Lexi's relationship, which is very chaotic and passionate, light and dark. I was excited the minute Paul met Lexi, and their first date -- which showcased Lexi's work as an artist mask maker -- but even more thrilled when their first date lasted a week. You root for their relationship, but then turn to the next chapter and realize, Paul is fighting against all odds to learn from Lorelei if Lexi fell from the apple tree in their back yard, or if she, indeed, committed suicide.
And the mystery is there. Not how Lexi died, but whether or not she let go of the branch on purpose, or if it was an accident.
It's a sad tale, and there were parts where I put myself in Paul's shoes and felt myself "creeped out" by Lexi's characterization at times, but if that's the case...it worked.
Hurrah for the modern literature that's out there!
Now, if you excuse me, I have more vampire tales and fantasy books to get back to.