The Dogs of Babel
Carolyn Parkhurst (Adult Fiction)
“Here is what we know, those of us who can speak to tell a story: On the afternoon of October 24, my wife, Lexy Ransome, climbed to the top of the apple tree in our backyard and fell to her death. There were no witnesses, save our dog, Lorelei.”
Paul Iverson is desperate to understand how his young, beautiful, and artistic wife died. Judging by her injuries and how her body landed, the police conclude that she didn’t jump. There are so many things that Paul is just discovering like there are two ways of falling and that each one tells a story. That on the day she died, Lexy rearranged the books on their bookshelf and cooked an entire steak just for Lorelei. The books, the steak, and the apple tree all tell Paul that the day Lexy died wasn’t a usual day. There are so many questions and the only one who can answer them can’t even speak…yet.
Carolyn Parkhurst delivers a novel that is a thriller wrapped around a mystery and enclosed within an endearing and heartbreaking love story. Paul is our narrator and shares with us the moment he heard of Lexy’s death and then rewinds to show us how his and Lexy’s story began with their initial meeting and subsequent first date. His voice is rich in detail and overflows with the love he feels for his wife and the loss he experiences by a life cut tragically short. Every marriage has its ups and downs and Paul and Lexy’s marriage is no different; however, she was the yin to his yang and their union was symbiotic albeit sometimes tempestuous.
The Dogs of Babel is a beautiful, painful, thoughtful, and at times humorous story, but at its very core is a man grieving and desperate for answers. His obsession of finding out the truth from his dog is futile and ridiculous. We know it, his friends and colleagues know it, and even Paul himself knows it, but when you’re drowning, you’ll grasp for anything that can serve as a lifeline. In this case, his lifeline is Lorelei. Parkhurst gives us a memorable and stirring novel about the ones left behind when a sudden and untimely tragedy occurs. The ones left with questions, loneliness, and oftentimes guilt and whose daily goals are measured by mere breaths.
Paul Iverson was a linguist by profession, and he often made a game of seeing how many words he could make out of a name. He felt that these newly formed words somehow gave insight into the person themselves. With The Dogs of Babel, I see the words blood, desolate, loathe, and death, but I also see self, glee, holdfast, and heals. In the Bible, The Tower of Babel signified the beginning of the division of mankind through the infliction of diverse languages—punishment for man’s desire to reach the heavens for “godlike” status. But Parkhurst reminds us that grief and love are universal and transcend the written word or spoken language. They unite us in our healing and help us find a way to move forward…one breath at a time.
*Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com