Try to imagine what it would be like if you were surrounded by people you loved, but were unable to speak to them. Imagine you could help them if only you had thumbs or could tell them what you know. Welcome to Enzo’s world. Enzo is a dog who wants desperately to be a man. He has seen a documentary on TV about how dogs in Mongolia come back as humans after they die, if they are ready. Enzo is ready. But first he needs to tell the story of his owner, Denny Swift, a talented race-car driver who never seems to get a break. Just as his career is beginning to take off, Denny suffers a great loss that is only the beginning of his troubles. Denny sacrifices his career and puts all of his energy and resources into keeping his family together. Enzo watches Denny with all the steadfastness of a good dog. He knows not to underestimate Denny’s strength and will. Enzo never gives up on Denny. Enzo is a philosopher. He applies Denny’s zen-like rules of car-racing to life and in moments of sheer desperation does whatever it takes to help Denny without words or thumbs.
There is definitely a risk in writing a book through a dogs point of view, but Garth Stein pulls it off without a hitch. He has a wonderful sense of the emotions and behaviors of both dogs and people. Enzo is a character that grabs you from the get-go. His desire, loyalty and quirky sense of humor are infectious. Denny’s ordeal is gut-wrenching but his redemption is bittersweet and well worth the wait. Stein has a gift for writing. I have never been interested in car-racing and I was afraid that would be a distraction for me, but the philosophy and almost poetic descriptions of car-racing actually drew me into the story. There were moments when I would just stop and let it all sink in. In case you were wondering, this is a dog book after all, I did cry (and I never cry when reading books) but it was a good cry. Go Enzo!