I bought this on the advice of several friends. I'm a fan of "The Dog Whisperer," have a "pack" of 3 dogs, and am fascinated with issues of training animals. I don't really have enough time to do a good job with my pets (2 of them actually belong to my children). This book is pretty realistic about the amount of time and attention that it takes to properly train animals and to run a kennel. [BTW--my youngest brother has a kennel--primarily Basset Hounds--they show and breed them.]
I've also had direct experience with what can go wrong with a family farm. I've said before, Jane Smiley only scratches the surface of what can go wrong. Here's another book that focuses on the complexities of rural life and the supposedly "idyllic" farm family.
Two days after having finished I'm still pondering a number of themes. Was the Sawtelle farm cursed from the beginning? Is this a tragic story, a coming-of-age story, or a morality tale? Why make Edgard mute?
This is a book that could be placed in a high school curriculum. It's a bit long to read, but passionate readers wouldn't be bothered by that. I'd love for our local 9th graders to be allowed to read this along with "To Kill a Mockingbird." I think it makes a great companion read.
Now for the bad part--I'm not in love with the ending. No spoiler here--but I wish somehow that the ending was different. When you finish reading then email and we can discuss the ending.