Enzo is witty and wise, funny and furry.
Enzo is a dog.
A wise old dog in a young family that is trying to resist disintegration in the face of tragedy.
In Garth Stein’s heartbreaking book about everything that holds a family together, we glean all we need to know about being human from this dog, who is bound to silence in his own world thanks to his soft dog tongue that just won’t let the words escape. Enzo believes that because he is a good dog with a human-like demeanor, he will be reincarnated as a man when he has completed his purpose as a dog. In the mean time, we as the audience are the sole listeners to Enzo’s silent musings — his monologues, his thoughts, his metaphors, his observations. We listen to the retold stories of famous racecar drivers he learned from his master, Denny. We feel his unease when Denny brings home a woman, his future wife, Eve. And we smile as he sprints behind the family’s toddler, Zoe.
In this dog’s world, things and people are not simple, black and white creatures. They are complex and unpredictable and emotional. Sometimes, they are too human for their own good. It is easy to empathize with both Enzo and the humans around him at different points throughout the novel, but so often Stein makes us want to yell at our own kind and say, “If only you could see like Enzo. If only you could be as selfless as Enzo.”
Enzo’s ultimate struggle is his inability to speak. He has so much to share with the world and so many insights to proclaim. Yet, in his silence, he leaves us with the most important lesson of the novel: sometimes quiet gestures — a nod, a nudge, an indecipherable sound — are all we have, and sometimes that is more than enough. Too often, Enzo teaches us, we turn another person’s story into our own, or we pit our own arguments against theirs and yell ruthlessly just for the sake of winning. Too often, we do not stop to assess a situation or another’s feelings.
This book is beautifully written and bursts with emotion on every page. Stein shows both the brilliance and ignorance of humanity in one ingenious character — a dog named Enzo, man’s best friend and a potential man-to-be, who learns how to be a human from daytime television and the kindness around him.
This is one of my favorite books of the summer and one I will cherish for a long time.
“My soul has learned what it came to learn, and all other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.” -The Art of Racing in the Rain