The Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst

Title: The Dogs of Babel/Lorelei’s Secret

Author: Carolyn Parkhurst  / Nationality:A American

Year of Publication: June,2003

Publisher: Little Brown

Pages: 264

Movie Adaptation/Motion Picture:  Expected release year 2013

Awards/Nomination: Booklist Editor’s choice 2003, New York Times Notable book

Genre: Fiction- Mystery



The Dogs of Babel also titled Lorelei’s Secret in the United Kingdom takes us through the journey of Paul Iverson a Linguistics Professor who is trying to uncover the actual events behind his wife’s death. This he does through her dog Lorelei who was the only witness to her death.

The book starts from the “ end” by telling us the story of how Lexy falls from a 30 feet apple tree in their backyard  and the good Professor  finds out something has gone wrong when he calls home only for a policeman to answer the call.

Lexy is a woman of many seasons, from being very happy to having a depressive teenage and college life that she shaves her head clean and tattoos it with snakes. She also seems to find joy in the saddest of situations as depicted in the masks that she makes for clients who have lost a loved one. She is particularly fixated with the picture and diary of one girl who probably represents her childhood.

Paul Iverson is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Lexy’s death is not an accident despite the police conclusions of how she fell backwards. These doubts lead him to pay attention to the slightest of details in their house starting from the bookshelf, to the bedroom and the litter bins. He makes discoveries such the books having been moved from their original position creating a sort of rhyme which is a poem about death. He also discovers that she was pregnant even though they had fought over the issue of having children while she felt she wasn’t good enough a human being to care for another life. In addition he discovers a hefty bill that turned out to be a payment made to a fortune teller.

She has a very close relationship with her dog because she is able to send the dog back and forth to him from her basement workshop with messages. Paul has to learn how to communicate with Lorelei after Lexy is gone. Somehow Paul believes that Lorelei a Rhodesian Ridgeback has the answers to his questions that he goes on a quest to get Lorelei to speak. He is even convinced that Lorelei said a word close to “water when she opens her mouth”.

He gets in touch with Wendell Hollis, a convict jailed for mistreating dogs through operating them as he believed that “god” was unfair in denying dogs the ability to talk.  Wendell introduces him to a cult of men (the Cerbus Society) who believe they must make the dogs talk as they did with a dog named Hero through various surgical procedures. Paul attends the first meeting with Lorelei who whines and hides behind him indicating that she has a past. A closer look at her nose shows a tattoo depicting  she was one of the dogs captured but ran away and was rescued by Lexy as a puppy. The description of what the cult does to dogs is disturbing and at some point as a reader you are forced to remind yourself that this is a work of fiction.

It is in between the clues that Parkhurst tells us of how the couple met at a garage sale including  their happy and not so happy moments.  She helps the reader understand Lexy’s character hence explaining the events to her death were premeditated.

Paul is so aggrieved by his wife’s death that it takes him over a year to recover. His friends at the University are convinced he has gone berserk trying to get a dog to talk, that they make fun of him and even avoid him where possible. However love can make one do the unthinkable.

In the end Paul is able to make his peace when “all” pieces of the puzzle are put together. He finally makes a call and resumes work after he concludes he did everything a good husband could do.

It is a good read, a mixture of love, passion and sorrow. Lorelei is symbolic since she brings out the aspect of faithfulness and friendship through the statement that a dog keeps your secrets safe.Had it not been indicated as a work of fiction,it would easily pass for a true story, Parkhurst definitely did her research well.

Memorable Quote: “The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”