Valentine Tribute: The Dogs of Babel
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to post about a book about love. I don’t read romance novels and I don’t like traditional, “sappy” love stories, so I chose a novel that so wonderfully illustrates an undying love that, for me, it’s almost too much to bear.
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is a heartwrenching novel, but not in the pull-at-your-heart-strings formulaic way that some novels are. We are introduced to Paul and Lexy, a couple who have had a unique courtship and marriage. We meet Paul just after Lexy has passed away and the only witness to her death was their dog Lorelei. Unable to deal with this tragedy, completely heartbroken and crushed, Paul sets out to teach Lorelei to speak so he can determine what exactly happened. It sounds absurd, but Parkhurst narrates the story in such a way that the reader is convinced Paul is doing the only logical thing.
Paul is searching for much more than just the answer to whether Lexy committed suicide or not; he’s trying to come to terms with exactly who Lexy was and how he was unable to help her. There is a passage in the novel that I find so haunting, so sad, so touching, that I think of it often, even years after I first read this book:
If I had known but yesterday what I know today,
I’d have taken out your two gray eyes and put in eyes of clay.
If I had known but yesterday you’d be no more my own,
I’d have taken out your heart of flesh and put in one of stone.
I know this wasn’t the most uplifting post and doesn’t scream Valentine’s Day in the traditional way, but I do think that love isn’t always light and fluffy and easy and The Dogs of Babel is a beautiful novel that perfectly illustrates that.