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The Dogs of Babel


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About the Author

Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of Lost and Found the bestseller The Dogs of Babel. She holds an MFA in creative writing from American University and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and their two children.


When Paul Iverson discovers that his wife has died in a fall from a tree, he does something unusual. Suspecting that her death was not an accident-there are odd clues, like the reshuffled books on the shelf-he uses his training as a linguist to try to teach their dog, Lorelei, to talk so that he can reconstruct Lexy's last hours. As Paul slips into ever more desperate behavior, we hear an account of his and Lexy's courtship and marriage-the tender, tentative union of two damaged people. But then Paul contacts a man convicted of operating on dogs to install vocal chords, and what had been a poignant, affecting tale turns truly frightening (dog lovers, beware). And then it is over; Paul learns that there are some things you should never do, even for love, and turns the memory of Lexy into a gift. Parkhurst delivers a remarkable debut in quiet, authoritative prose. It's especially noteworthy that Paul's crusade does not seem preposterous and that while the author offers an affecting message, her characters don't seem like message bearers but distinctive, lively individuals you might like to know. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/03.]-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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-accident? suicide?-her grieving husband tries to teach the dog to talk. Parkhurst's debut novel has been getting a lot of pre-pub attention (see PW's First Fiction feature, Jan. 27), probably mostly for this concept, because the execution of this first novel is flawed. The tantalizing prospect of linguistics professor Paul Iverson attempting to teach Lorelei to talk is given short, and erratically plotted, shrift. Paul's narration oscillates between his present-day experiences and the backstory of his romance with Lexy Ransome, a mask maker. The two meet when Paul drops by Lexy's yard sale, buys a device for shaping hard-boiled eggs into squares, then returns with a bunch of square eggs ("And we stood there smiling, with the plate between us, the egg-cubes glowing palely in the growing dark"). This incident, a maxi-combo of cute and sentimental, defines much of the couple's love story (on their first date, Lexy whisks them off to DisneyWorld), marking much of this novel as a sentimental, manipulative romance not unlike James Patterson's Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas; some readers will adore it, while others will gag even as the pages darken toward tragedy. Few will relish the sketchy account of Paul's work with the dog, which goes nowhere until it veers, bizarrely and unbelievably, toward an underground group performing illegal surgical experiments on dogs. Parkhurst is a fluid stylist, and there are memorable moments here, as well as some terrific characters (particularly the enigmatic Lexy), but one gets the sense of an author trying to stuff every notion she's ever had into her first book, with less than splendid results. Simultaneous Time Warner audio. (June 16) Forecast: Chosen as a BOMC main selection, and with the Little, Brown marketing machine behind it, Parkhurst's novel will sell, though bestsellerdom may be hard won. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

""Enormously engaging on both an emotional and intellectual level.... I read it without stopping, and I loved it completely."

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