'The Dogs of Babel'
By: Carolyn Parkhurst, Erik Singer
(Hardcover / Little, Brown & Company / ISBN: 1586215108 / $29.98)
Description:It's a terrific high concept: a woman falls from a backyard tree and dies; the only witness is the family dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. To find out what happened, whether it be an accident or suicide, her grieving husband tries to teach the dog to talk!
Verdict: There is an accident: a young married woman has fallen to her death. A husband is left alone to face this sudden and devastating loss, blindsided by the unexpected depths of his grief. Paul Iverson clings to the only witness of Lexy's last day on earth, their beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lorelei. Driven to find answers, to unravel the mystery of Lexy's fatal plunge, Professor Iverson, a linguist, becomes obsessed with a plan to teach Lorelei to speak, so that she can finally tell him what happened. Requesting a sabbatical, Paul notes the distress and worry on his colleague's faces, but is unconcerned in his quest to obliterate all but his experiment. Gathering random bits of information, he scours the house for clues and makes lists, including one of all the books the couple has owned, anything to make sense of the senseless. He compiles stacks of literature, case studies of experiments where dogs have been surgically altered in an attempt to evoke canine speech. Unfortunately, all such experiments are inhumane and illegal, but Paul has no intention of resorting to such practices. He spends time with Lorelei, patiently "teaching" her the responses he wants. 'The Dogs of Babel' is an emotionally painful reading experience, and for me, one of the most intensely sad books I've ever encountered (but that's a good thing - genuine emotion is hard to come by in this post-modern meta-fiction riddled contemporary literary period!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!
Reviewed By Mary Peters