His owner, Denny Swift, happens to be a race car driver as well as Enzo's hero and some of their best times together consist of watching car racing videos. But as many pets often realize, humans desire to share their lives with other humans and Enzo finds he is literally the odd dog out. Much of his life is spent at home watching the Speed Channel on cable. But it is Enzo's quick ability to compare the sport of car racing with the lessons of life that captures the reader's attention. Throughout the book, Enzo often expresses his desire to spend his next life with opposable thumbs as a human being. But before he can think about reincarnation, he must help Denny get back the one thing they both hold dear.
While Enzo's opinions on evolution and his knowledge of television shows such as Law & Order seem a little far-fetched, readers will enjoy insightful statements from Enzo such as "your car goes where your eyes go," that are developed throughout the book. Stein's attention to detail when describing the bitter personality of crows, observations of Denny's in-laws and rides around a race track are what captures the reader. Most of all, Stein is successful at making us believe we're on hands and knees with a keen sense of smell. As with any good dog story, emotions run high as Stein tackles some of life's most painful experiences. But his playful illusions through Enzo's eyes otherwise keep the book light-hearted and humorous.
Garth Stein Central Oregon Appearances
12pm Friday, August 1. Paulina Springs Books in Sisters. 252 W. Hood Ave. (Signing only). 5pm Friday, August 1. North Soles Footwear. 800 NW Wall St, Bend.
5pm Saturday, August 2. Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver Mall Building.
A Word With Author Garth Stein
You were inspired by the documentary, State of Dogs. Did you do any unusual research to find the voice of Enzo, or did you just jump right in?
I just jumped in. I was writing a different novel, but the voice of Enzo became so compelling to me, I had to set my other novel aside. Once I opened the door for Enzo, he bounded in with joy and enthusiasm.
When writing such an emotional first chapter, was your intention to prepare your reader for what was to come?
Well, yes and no. I mean, it was the way I felt compelled to write the story. Looking back on it I think that part of it is the idea of our love for our pet-we know we have a longer life span than they do, we know how the story will end, and yet we still get involved. Also, from a structural point of view, if you look at any good novel, the writer gives clues as to how the novel will end in the first chapter. Unless it's a mystery or a thriller, we're not supposed to be surprised by how a story ends. We're supposed to be engaged in how the writer takes us from point to point.
Was there a reason you chose a zebra to represent a demon?
That's something that belongs to the inspiration of Enzo. But I remember seeing a documentary about zebras and the way they live, and thinking, how can we trust them? Are they black with white stripes? White with black stripes? Are they horses? Why do they cling so much to the pack? You have to admit, a zebra is a better symbol for the demon than a panda!
At the foundation of this book lie very difficult situations including the death of a spouse, a custody battle and the declining health of man's best friend. You've successfully conveyed the emotion of each situation to the reader. How hard was it for you to write?
This book was easy for me to write. Yes, the situations in it are difficult, but the dramatic truth is honest, I think, and when something is honest and true, it comes naturally. I can only hope that books I write in the future come as easily and speak as truly as this one... - Interview by Amy A. Clark