. . .then go get your dog
then go get your other dog
and read this book as soon as possible.
For me the true test of any good read is if I have to fight the urge to read the whole book in one big gulp instead of savoring it. I started reading Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing in the Rain" after dinner last night and in the interest of pacing myself, forced myself to go to bed at my usual time.
At 1AM, I gave up my pursuit of sleep and turned on my light again.
4AM - book finished - found me downstairs sitting next to an open dog crate, crying in the dark and nuzzling a pair of very warm but confused dogs.
"The Art of Racing in the Rain" is a witty, touching hug of a story about a family's life as seen through the eyes of it's dog, Enzo - an intuitive canine who believes he will be reincarnated as a human when it comes his time to die. He knows this because he watched a documentary about Mongolian dogs on TV. Until that day, however, Enzo hates crows, resents monkeys, loves television and longs for opposable thumbs.
This wise and dignified observer lets the reader peek through a new keyhole at our human antics and trevails.
The voice Stein gives Enzo is so carefully crafted that the lessons here have a credibility that is engaging and palatable, with none of the manipulation that made me abandon Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom. Sometimes, Enzo's thoughts made me chuckle ("The smell would have given me an erection if I still had testicles"), but his meatier observations ("How quickly a year passes, like a mouthful of food snatched from the maw of eternity") are neither forced nor fake.
Dog lovers will relate to Enzo's thoughts as he does those purely doggie things like running through fields and playing fetch. But it's his thoughts when he sits by his troubled master or seeks out someone's hand for a good scratch behind the ears that had me thinking about even the innocuous interactions I have with my dogs. I found myself looking at both of them, wondering about the comparative weight of tiny kindnesses and tiny cruelties.
This book's gift is that Enzo's stories also made me think about how humans treat each other. And his disgust with the indignities and inconveniences of aging evoke a thoughtfulness I would do well to remember.
As in any life story, there is laughter and loss and sorrow even if in somewhat predictable doses. Cars and racing are the backdrop against which Stein's observations on life are hung but like any episode of National Geographic, you'll find yourself engaged by those details even if they hold no interest for you at first glance.
Like Dean Koontz's book "Watchers," "The Art of Racing in the Rain" will make you want a dog in your life and by your side. And if you've already been "dog blessed," you'll find yourself looking into their eyes at quiet moments, wondering if something more might be going on inside their little heads.
Ultimately, it is the unyielding tenacity of the human spirit that makes Enzo want to believe that someday he will be one of us, where he can finally embody ". . . that which manifests itself is before you."