2 words that describe the book: Dog’s perspective
3 settings where it took place or characters you met:
- Setting: Seattle, Washington, modern times
- Enzo is a human soul trapped in a dog’s body … or so he likes to believe. The entire book is narrated by Enzo, who worships his master Denny. Enzo tells his life story from the day Denny got him at the puppy farm until the day his soul is released to run until he is reborn. As Enzo tells his story, we also learn the story of Denny.
- Denny is Enzo’s owner. He is also a race car driver, who imparts his love of racing to Enzo. (Just a heads-up: There is a lot of racing information in the book. I thought it was handled well and it didn’t bother me, but I could see that it might be a turnoff to some readers.) At first, it is only Denny and Enzo. Then, one day, Denny brings home a woman named Eve. Enzo is initially very jealous of Eve, and it takes them some time to become friends. However, Enzo and Eve’s friendship deepens with the arrival of Zoe, Denny and Eve’s daughter. However, long before anyone else knows, Enzo’s keen sense of smell tells him that something is very wrong with Eve. As Eve’s health worsens, things take a tragic turn for the little family, and Denny faces one tragedy after another. Yet Denny never gives up fighting, and Enzo is with him every step of the way–a favor that Denny repays when Enzo nears the end of his life.
4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:
I liked how Stein made Enzo the dog a sympathetic and charming narrator. It is a tricky thing to write from the point of view of an animal, and I think Stein managed to pull it off for the most part. By making Enzo talk about his feeling like a man trapped in a dog’s body, it becomes easier for the reader to accept Enzo’s narration and intelligence. Yet the best parts of the book, for me, was when Enzo was purely dog. Enzo himself questions his own disdain of his dog nature as he lies on his deathbed:
And I wonder: Have I squandered my dogness? Have I forsaken my nature for my desires? Have I made a mistake by anticipating my future and shunning my present?
Perhaps I have. An embarrassing deathbed regret. Silly stuff.
At the same time, I disliked how Stein made Enzo seem “too” human. Stein is really telling the story of what happens to Denny, and Enzo (although a compelling narrator) seems a bit unrealistic as a narrator in many ways. When I first heard about this book, I was curious to see how a book written from a dog’s perspective would read. Quite a few years ago, I read a wonderful short story by Dave Eggers called After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned (click on the link for the full story!), which was also written from a dog’s perspective. To me, the Eggers’s story is much more “true” to how I think I a dog would tell a story. (But what do I know? I’m not a dog.) Yet I could see that Stein would have a difficult time writing an entire NOVEL from the point of view of a dog if he didn’t somehow make the dog more human than dog.
I disliked how much tragedy Stein piles onto Denny. It seemed melodramatic and overdone. It struck me that much of what happens to Denny would probably not hold water from a legal perspective. And I didn’t buy into the story line with the young relative Annika either. This seemed more like a ploy to be able to extricate Denny from the legal problems with his in-laws. In some ways, Denny’s story seemed overly plotted to me.
I liked the ending of the book. After a pretty sad last chapter, it was nice to be able to end the book on a high note with the epilogue. Although it is foreshadowed a few times in the book, I rather enjoyed the little twist at the end.
5 Stars or less for your rating?
I’m giving the book 3.5 stars. I know this book was wildly popular with many readers, and I can see the attraction. I’m sure many dog lovers project the personalities of their beloved pets onto Enzo, and I admire Stein for attempting to write an entire novel from a dog’s point of view. Although I think he basically succeeds, I did think the book was overly plotted and melodramatic. In some ways, I think having a dog narrator covers up a story that might not have stood well on its own. As you can probably tell, I’m not in love with the book, but I didn’t hate it either. I think it is worth reading at some point, and probably a must read for dog lovers (though have your tissues ready).
The Whys and Wheres: I wanted to read this book because I kept hearing so much hype about it so I got it from Quality Paperback Book Club for the very cheap price of 1 cent (part of my rejoining membership offer). No giveaway on this one though; my copy is promised to my blogging buddy Ter at With An Angel On My Shoulder.