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Sometimes, when everyone tells me a book is great, perversely I put off reading it. This book was on every list and was recommended by friends who also love to read and I did put it off, but that was a good thing because I got to enjoy it this summer. And you know what, they were all right – this is a wonderful story.
I don’t know if any part of this particular story is true but it could be. It is the story of an American family – Dennis (Denny), employed by a BMW parts store in Seattle but also a race car driver and a driving teacher, his wife Eve, their daughter Zoe and Enzo their dog (the star of the book). Enzo tells his family’s story and he is an excellent narrator, always loyal to his family and honest about his faults and theirs. We get the impression (I wonder how) that he is on the last stage of his reincarnation from dog to man. He knows that after he dies he will come back as a male person with a voice and opposable thumbs. I think he‘s ready.
Enzo starts many of the chapters in this book by quoting his master’s rules for the “art of racing.” Denny is particularly good at racing in the rain which not every driver is. How do you drive in the rain? “Very gently. Like there are eggshells on your pedals,” Denny always says, “and you don’t want to break them. That’s how you drive in the rain.”
Denny has so much sorrow suddenly piled into the middle of his life that we would not fault him if he just gave up. He does make mistakes, a couple of doozies, but in the crunch, at the last lap, when the flag is ready to fall, he pulls out a win.
“Ideally, a driver is a master of all that is around him, Denny says. Ideally a driver controls the car so completely that he corrects a spin before it happens, he anticipates all possibilities. But we don’t live in an ideal world. In our world, surprises sometimes happen, mistakes happen, incidents with other drivers happen, and a driver must react.”
“When a driver reacts, Denny says, it’s important to remember that a car is only as good as its tires. If the tires lose traction nothing else matters. Horsepower, torque, braking, all is moot when a skid is initiated. Until speed is scrubbed by good, old-fashioned friction and the tires regain traction the driver is at the mercy of momentum. And momentum is a powerful force of nature.”
So now I will add my voice to those who say this is a very human book told by a very sweet dog and that you too will be a winner if you read it.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, is a little gem. It is like an exquisite foreign film or a little jewel of a painting. It is weak on story, strong on character, intellect, and philosophy.