There's a Mongolian legend that when a dog dies, there's a chance he could come back in his next life as a human.
In Garth Stein's novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a dog named Enzo shares his passion with readers about learning all he possibly can about humanity in hopes of being reincarnated as a man, a legend he learned about by watching a documentary on television.
Those reading the book get a glimpse into Enzo's nearly human soul as well as into the lives of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver, who struggles with the death of his wife, Eve, and a custody battle with his in-laws over his daughter, Zoe.
“Using a dog as a narrator has limitations and it has advantages,” said Stein. “The limitations are that a dog cannot speak. A dog has no thumbs. A dog can't communicate his thoughts except with gestures. Dogs are not allowed certain places. The advantages are that a dog has special access: people will say things in front of dogs because it is assumed that a dog doesn't understand. Dogs are allowed to witness certain things because they aren't people and have no judgment.
“... In that sense, it was a lot of fun playing with this ‘fly on the wall' point of view. Especially since the ‘fly' in our case is Enzo, who has very keen powers of observation.”
Readers from across Yuma have been engrossed in the novel as part of One Book Yuma and will be coming together to discuss the book, meet the author, have a question-and-answer session with him and get their books signed.
“With any community read program ... when I can work it into my schedule I like to do it because reading a book is a collaborative effort, a writer writes the book, but unless it's read and interpreted by a reader, it doesn't really make any difference; an unread book is really meaningless,” said Stein.
“So when a community comes together and reads, it's a lot of fun because there's a dialogue, there's an exchange of ideas and everybody is right, everybody interprets a book differently through experiences and ideals and values, so people will plug into a book on a different level. When people can come together in a group and exchange those ideas, it makes for a good dialogue and when I get an opportunity to come visit that community, I like to do it.”
As the life of a writer is sometimes a solitary one, he said it is nice to get out and meet people instead of spending long hours staring at a computer screen at home.
“I've had a lot of opportunities to travel and meet a lot of people through this book. There is a great deal of passion behind the followers of Enzo, which sometimes surprises me, the stories that people bring to me about their own dog and their own families and stuff. When you write a book, you want to reach one person, you hope that somebody reads it and gets it, so when you write a book that a lot of people get, it's very gratifying.”
One Book Yuma, an annual event designed to encourage literacy and engage the community in discussion about relevant and interesting topics, will be held Feb. 28-March 1.
Yuma Sun marketing director Adrianne Wagner said she encourages community members to read the book and come out and participate in the free event, held in partnership between the Yuma Sun, Northern Arizona University-Yuma, Arizona Western College and Yuma County libraries.
She said this book is completely different from any other titles that have been read through the program in the past, as others have addressed topics like the economy and immigration.
“This one is more of a heartwarming story, one that appeals to people on the emotional level when it comes down to their best friends, dogs, pets, etc,” Wagner said. “Especially with the new Humane Society shelter opening, we figured it was kind of topical, in front of mind.
“And who doesn't love a dog? Especially the dog in this book. If you've read it, he's very sincere and most dogs usually are, especially golden retrievers.”
She said that during the March 1 event, people will have a chance to take their photo with “Enzo,” as special Guide Dog Puppy Raisers of Yuma and Humane Society of Yuma will be present.
Visit www.yumasun.com/onebookyuma for more information about the program, the author and the book.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.