cover image Familiaris


David Wroblewski. Blackstone, $34.99 (976p) ISBN 979-8-212-19429-7

Wroblewski delivers a gratifying if overstuffed prequel to his 2008 bestseller, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. In May 1919, 22-year-old Wisconsin automotive worker John Sawtelle witnesses his boss’s murder and heads north with his wife, Mary, and their friends Ulysses Elbow and Frank Eckling out of fear he’ll be falsely implicated in the crime. After the four settle on a dilapidated farm, John works as a dog breeder, raises two sons, Edgar and Claude, and encounters some unsettling surprises in the woods surrounding the property. One plot thread features a neighbor with supernatural abilities—she ages at half the normal human rate and can see into a person’s future. Another involves a violent and tragic episode, which results in the Sawtelles and their friends going their separate ways. The author tends to lose his way in lengthy sections of backstory and drawn-out conversation pieces as the plot slowly approaches the events of the first novel. Still, there are beautiful passages on the bonds between humans and animals and plenty of folksy charm. Fans of the first book will be satisfied. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (June)