I don’t know how Stein did it, but writing from a wise, sage like, almost human – dog’s point of view is so unbelievably believable that he had me sobbing and laughing simultaneously. When my daughter looked at me with her usual furrowed brow, not sure if I was losing it – I cried even more. This book for young people has been slightly altered from the more grown-up ‘ Art of Racing in the Rain,’ and I loved it. As a mother, as a human being, as a person who adores dogs and someone who believes in karma, rebirth or however you choose to interpret death and destiny, I truly accepted the Mongolian saying that ‘all dogs having lived through their dog lives will be reborn into the human realm when they are ready.’ Clearly this dog was one such animal. It is a tender and captivating story.
Enzo, named after Enzo Ferrari, grabs your heart immediately. I mean, you love him instantaneously. He is so human like in his thinking, right down to his wish to come back as a human. He has learned so much from Denny( a race car driver in the making) and loves him unconditionally that he wants to free his best friend from the eternal obligation of caregiver, so he can race to his true potential and be better than any formula one racing car driver on the circuit. That selfless wish alone makes you fall in love with this dog. Enzo is, much to his chagrin slightly debilitated by his limitations as a dog, he is mortified that his tongue hangs out at the oddest of times, and that he has to do ‘his business’ when people tell him to! he sometimes can’t control his bladder, and the arthritis gripping his back legs is a constant reminder that he is ready to move on, he feels that he needs to leave his current body and return as a person who can actually do something to help Denny. Enzo is all heart. You honestly believe there is a real person with real feelings underneath all that doggy fur. From his Ayrton Senna ( boy, did I love Senna, thought he was pretty cool back in the 90s) musings, to his affinity for racing car shows, through his astounding knowledge about the workings of the world and the ability to apply racing analogy to his daily life, he teaches us the most important lessons about pain, loss, and love.
We meet him on his last legs, literally, and yet, you are carried away into wondering what your dog might be thinking about you. The book begins with Enzo having an accident in the kitchen whilst Denny is away, we then journey into his whimsical thought process about how to clean up after himself before Denny gets home to the mess. He takes us through his younger days, from meeting Denny, to their warm and loving relationship. He is brilliant as he sorts out the complexities of Eve’s arrival into their midst. Enzo is not so sure of her intentions except to notice that she makes Denny really happy. He really does not want to share his house, or his doggy pillow or his bowl and most importantly, does not want to share Denny, but he is happy to go alone with whatever Denny wants. Along comes Zoe and Enzo feels a bit left out at first, but they become firm friends and a happy family. Enzo even accepts Eve, until, as is normal in life, events propel them towards grief and tragedy. Don’t worry though, there is a fitting end to the book. We grieve and we smile with them as we celebrate their small joys and humanity. I love Denny’s character. He is so compassionate and honest, he never loses sight of what is important to him.
I am not sure I want to read the adult version after this, although I must admit I am a little bit curious. I will let you know…