Dear Carolyn Parkhurst,
The Dogs of Babel knocked me off my feet. The prose is beautiful and haunting, the ideas heartbreakingly sad yet realistic, and the imagery something you can't forget. I love this book so much that I want to share it with everyone, but I've never lent it out afraid that I won't get it back. When I reread the book, as I have often, I have to brace myself each time, even though I know the ending and the secret.
I can't imagine going through what the characters go through. A man's wife dies by falling out of a tree and no one knows if she fell or jumped. The only witness is their loyal dog, Lorelei, and Paul, the husband, becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lexy, his wife. The way the story runs through the present day searching and flashbacks to their relationship creates this impending doom. You know the ending from the beginning but you find yourself hoping, maybe not. Maybe they will live happily ever after in the end.
The hardest and best part of the story for me is all about Lorelei. I had a dog named Zoey from when I was in high school until I almost graduated college. We found Zoey in a very unusual way. I was working the summer at Storrowton Village. Since it was before I got my licence, my Mom had picked me up and we were exiting the highway on the way home. Out of nowhere this white streak crosses the road headed back onto the highway. Cars are dodging, people are jumping out to help and the whole place is chaos. So Mom, who has never, ever been able to walk away from an animal in need, pulls a U-turn and pulls up next to a guy running. "Is that your dog?" she asks and he tells us, no, but his buddy is up there trying to get the dog. So we peel out and try to catch up to his buddy. We don't see him, but we do see the dog. Mom pulls up next to the little pup and I open the door and in she jumps. By the time we turn around and get back to where all the cars are, no one is left. So we have a dog and no one to give it back to. Eventually, we take it to the kennel and when they call to tell us that they have to put the dog down, Zoey joins our family. She was sweetest thing, so happy to see everyone and everything. She was small, so jumping on the couch was a big deal, but nothing could keep her away from cuddling with you. She had doggy asthma (I'm not making that up) and coughed and hacked constantly. It was embarrassing walking her around the neighborhood, but she was so happy, it was hard to deny her it. She was loyal beyond anything and everyone loved her. Eventually she couldn't get around much and you could tell she was in pain a lot so we had to let her go. I still tear up thinking about the last time I saw her and I don't think I can type much more about her.
I have only had cats since Zoey and I don't think I would ever want another dog. Zoey wasn't planned, she just kind of happend, like the Lorelei in the story. But these animals leave their mark and I know how important our pets are to us. Stories like these celebrate our animals like they should be. They are members of our families, the one who know us best and love us anyways. Those who don't have pets or don't think much of cats or dogs will never understand and never know what that's like and to those I feel sad. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet you take care of. And that will always mean something to me.
Thank you for putting into words how special our animals are and for those of us who love them like family. This is much more moving that that awful ASPCA commercial that I have to change everytime it airs.