Okay, so I know I haven't even written a review for Don't Look Down yet, and I will get to it, I swear. But I just finished The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst and I can't shake the feeling it gave me. My heart is aching, literally.
It's been a long time since I've read a book that stuck with me this way. I believe the last one was The Lovely Bones. I suppose they're similar in their subjects -- a loved one has died and left someone behind grieving for them. In this case, the grieving is Paul Iverson. His wife, Lexy Ransome, has passed away -- she fell from the apple tree in their backyard. Paul, heartbroken and desperate for answers to the various "clues" Lexy left around the house, decides to teach their dog, Lorelei, to talk. He hopes that maybe she can clear up what happened that day.
The book, as far-fetched and downright ludicrous as its premise sounds, reaches deep down into the souls of those who have lost someone they love, as well as anyone who has shared the bond between dog and human. Written in short bursts, we see how Paul and Lexy met and follow their courtship and marriage up to that tragic day. Lexy is an intriguing character, given to fits of anger or passion in any given moment. She is spontaneous and charming and confusing. I liked that we got to see Lexy alive and vibrant. These glimpses allowed us to feel the loss that Paul is experiencing even more acutely than if we'd only seen the present.
There are some passages about animal abuse, which brought tears to my eyes, but I think they were necessary to tell the story of Paul, Lexy and Lorelei. To see the lengths that Paul was almost willing to go to in order to teach Lorelei to speak and to know the truth about what happened that day -- was Lexy's fall an accident, or did she commit suicide?
This book is tragic and funny and bittersweet and intriguing. I couldn't put it down and once I read those final pages, I closed it with a sigh, left with an ache that will last for a long, long time.
The Dogs of Babel is definitely a worthwhile read. Parkhurst writes beautifully and honestly about love and loss and desperation. This is the kind of book I want to absorb straight into my veins in the hope that I will write half as well.