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Meet the Author
Carolyn Parkhurst is a writer with a true talent for using the strangest of premises to tell tales that are genuinely insightful and moving. Her debut novel The Dogs of Babel, the story of a grieving widower who attempts to teach his dog to speak, won her wide acclaim. Now with a smart and funny follow-up that takes on reality television, Parkhurst is proving that she is anything but a one-hit-wonder.
What dog lover would not want to know exactly what her or his pet was thinkingand hear those thoughts articulated verbally? And what if it were indeed possible to teach a dog to communicate as humans do? This is the goal of the grieving widower at the heart of Carolyn Parkhurst's quirky but moving debut novel The Dogs of Babel.
Parkhurst's bold debut grew out of an inventive "history" of canine linguistics she penned while in college. This wholly fictional "research" paper provided Parkhurst with the basis of what would become The Dogs of Babel. "I think every dog owner has wondered, what is my dog thinking?" she explained to Bookpage. "What do they make of what they observe about my life? I wish it were true that we could talk and find out what they're thinking, but I don't think it's ever going to happen."
This bizarre premise was actually a means for Parkhurst to explore the themes of grief, loss, redemption, and communication that form the emotional core of The Dogs of Babel. In the novel, a linguistics professor named Paul Iverson finds his beloved wife Lexy lying dead beneath a thirty-foot apple tree in their yard. Not knowing whether Lexy slipped from the branches accidentally or willfully plummeted to her death, Paul turns to the sole witness to uncover the secret of Lexy's death. Unfortunately, this witness happens to be Loralei, his pet Rhodesian Ridgeback. Devastated, Paul abandons his job and embarks on a quest to teach his dog speech in order to discover what, exactly, happened to his wife.
The eccentricity of this premise is not lost on the author, who admits, "There's a real issue of getting readers to suspend their belief when your premise is a man who is trying to teach his dog to talk," but said, "My hope is that, as you learn more about Paul and what he's like, it's believable that he might follow this unlikely course."
Thanks to Parkhurst's skillful blend of absurdity and genuine humanity, readers not only bought her outlandish premise but enthusiastically embraced the writer as a significant new talent, Book magazine even named her as a "new writer to watch." The Dogs of Babel received raves from a string of publications including The Los Angeles Times, Esquire, People magazine, Marie Claire, and Entertainment Weekly. Furthermore, the novel helped Parkhurst come to terms with her own tragic loss. "My dog, Chelsea, who died during the time I was writing the book, was certainly an inspiration to me," she told Identity Theory.com. "I think that the experience of living with such a sweet dog is probably what made me want to write about dogs in the first place."
Carolyn Parkhurst followed up her touching smash debut with a novel that is no less insightful, but somewhat more humorous. Lost and Found explores the relationships between seven mismatched couples as they compete in the reality TV show from which the novel takes its name. The fictional show is a global scavenger hunt, and the participants find more than they bargained for as relationships become increasingly strained as the game's stakes grow higher. The book generated more positive notices for Parkhurst. Kirkus Reviews stated that Lost and Found surpasses Parkhurst's critically acclaimed debut, adding that, "Given the high-concept premise, Parkhurst has avoided the pitfall of simply engineering a joyride..." Deserved praise for sure, but what else would anyone expect from the writer of The Dogs of Babel?
Good To Know
In her interview with Barnes & Noble.com, Parkhurst shared some fun facts about herself:
"I wrote my first story, 'The Table Family,' when I was three. Actually, I dictated it to my mother. It was about a family of tables (Table was their last name), and they were upset because there was a family of leaves growing in their house, but then they all learned to live together. The story also had self-driving cars, a friendly witch, and a man who had only one eyeall the important plot elements."
"I've had three dogs in my life; their names were Fritzie, Shannon, and Chelsea. My mom and I got Chelsea when I was in college, and she's the one who chose his name, despite the fact that he was a male dog and Chelsea is largely a female name.
"A few years later, when Chelsea had come to live with me, my future husband and I tried for a short time to change his name to Doug, which we thought was more fitting (we were inspired by a 'Far Side' cartoon that shows a man standing on his front lawn next to a sign that says, ‘Beware of Doug.' We also liked the way it sounded: ‘This is my dog, Doug'). We did manage to get him to respond to the new name, but ultimately we decided to go back to the name he'd had since he was a puppy."
"I've spent a lot more time watching game shows than I care to admit. I like the excitement of them, the combination of luck and skill, and the possibility that someone could win something really great. Sad as it may sound, The Price is Right is one of the highlights of my day. Whenever my son hears the theme music, he runs to the TV and points at it with great agitation and excitement."
"I love to travel and to cook, although I haven't had much of a chance to do either one since my son was born."
"I collect masks, which is the inspiration for my character Lexy's career as a mask maker, and the first one I ever got was a Carnival mask I bought in Venice. It's a tall gold feather made of papier-mâché, with the features of a woman's face pressed into it. It's beautiful, but it's about two feet tall, and when I bought it I didn't realize I'd have to carry it through Italy for the next two weeks. I dragged it on trains and buses and planes, and I was terrified I'd damage it. The man at the store had wrapped it in paper, and I was scared to unwrap it while I was traveling, so I didn't know until I got home whether it had made the trip intact. Luckily, it was fine; now it's hanging in my living room."
"I also like to play games and do crossword puzzles. When my husband and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary, I read that the gift is supposed to be paper, so I spent about a month making a crossword puzzle for him. It's surprisingly hard to do. I filled it with clues and references that only he and I would know about, and on the morning of our anniversary, I made him sit there and fill in the whole thing."