A page-turner

Within weeks of our arrival, I enrolled Daniella in a reading and writing class in English. In 9th grade, she is the youngest of the group, who are 10th through 12th graders. In the past two months, she has read Farenheit 451 and most recently, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Their latest assignment was to write a book review before they dive into King Lear.

One Friday afternoon, Daniella handed me Stein’s book, telling me I might enjoy it if I could finish it by Wednesday, when she had to return it. I remembered the book cover from the Barnes & Noble stands last year, with the picture of a dog’s head on it. Not being a dog lover, I remember thinking it was a Marley and Me spin-off. Not that I had read Marley and Me, but I had seen the movie, which was treacly and beyond believable, so I had no interest in another sappy dog story. But Daniella knew me and, if she was recommending it, I felt I should show her my open-mindedness.
After dinner Friday night, I sat down on our red Foof chair in our reading corner and opened up the book. The first quote by race car driver Ayrton Senna drew me in before the story had even started:
“With your mind power,
Your determination,
Your instinct,
And the experience as well,
You can fly very high.”

Our red Foof chair


And then the writer took me on a journey, as told from a dog’s perspective, about his unconditional love for his owner Denny, a race car driver and devoted husband and father, about his wish to be born human in his next life, and his desire to be able to talk and tell the facts behind the story that unfolded. It was a story of loyalty and loss, family and friendship, full of tension and climax and profound, revelatory thoughts about the human condition—as told from Enzo’s eyes.

By Saturday late afternoon, I was on chapter 51, page 278 of the 321-page paperback. All I wanted to do was read, yet I loved Enzo and his story so much I didn’t want to finish the book. That night, I got into bed with Philippe and suggested we watch a movie on his laptop to prevent me from finishing.

Then, Sunday was busy. In the morning, I taught yoga at home then drove to the Tel Aviv Port to take a class at Ella Yoga then to teach. In between I had thirty minutes. I threw the book into my bag, knowing I could finish it in that half hour.

At 12:40 I took my book and a bottle of water outside in search of a bench to sit and finish. I sat facing the sea with my sunglasses on to shield my eyes from the early November heat. At 12:50, with less than 10 pages left, the sun was piercing to the point that I could no longer stay seated so I got up to find shade under an awning. There, I stood and read with tears running down my eyes.

By the end of the story, Enzo is old and ill but still so wise; his inner voice shares with us everything he knew and learned and loved about his master’s profession: “I know this much about racing in the rain. I know it is about balance. It is about anticipation and patience. I know all of the driving skills that are necessary for one to be successful in the rain. But racing in the rain is also about the mind! It is about owning one’s body. About believing that one’s car is merely an extension of one’s body. About believing the track is an extension of the car, and the rain is an extension of the track, and the sky is an extension of the rain. It is about believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you.”

Racing in the rain is yoga in the purest form. It is owning one’s body, controlling one’s mind, becoming self-aware. It is the understanding that when you peel off all the layers you are not you; you are everything, and everything is you.

Steins’ story, Enzo’s voice reminded me of the old adage to not judge a book by its cover. I vow to make every effort to never judge a book, nor a human being, nor any other preconceived idea I have had in my head because of an outward appearance. Everything and everyone has another story, a deeper layer and yet, in the end, underneath all of it, we are all the same.

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16 Responses to “A page-turner”

  1. Lauren December 12, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    J,

    I actually recall our talking about the book with your girls sitting in your parent’s living room. I’d read the book some years ago and loved it as you did – wanting to “race” through it, yet dreading the end of the journey. Thank you for sharing your experience and equating it to yoga. Very astute.

    Lauren

    • Jennifer Lang December 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      Don’t you just love books like that? They make me sigh…. heavy and satisfied, filled to the top. xo

  2. Z December 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Many roads lead to this conclusion; this one put the pedal to the metal. Can’t wait to read it and will recommend it to Mike (he favors anything with the name Enzo)!

    • Jennifer Lang December 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      Ta da! You made it to the right place. Thanks for the comment… what the heck does put the pedal to the metal mean? See you maniana

  3. maris December 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I, very much a dog person, “read” this book on my i-touch, back and forth to work and home in the car (arriving late, hmmmm), to the grocery, pharmacy, on metro north, the subway, walking down the street…oblivious to the world around me. I guess i should be glad I got everywhere safely! I too was intrigued by Enzo and Stein’s message and have been sending and suggesting it to many. The focus on one’s “innerness” indeed offers us strength. So glad you discovered this! Miss you.

    • Jennifer Lang December 13, 2011 at 6:20 am #

      So yesterday I was reading on my Nook, my first Nook success story, and so entrenched I was 8 minutes late to pick up Simone from tennis. She was enraged. I asked her if she wanted the truth or if I could fib as to why I was late. She chose the former and I had to grovel at her feet for her to forgive me. There’s nothing like a good story! xo

  4. auntie mona December 13, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    I also loved it and like you, was reluctant to read for very same reasons; I actually could live my entire life not ever being in any contact with any dog, to be truthful!!!

    I found it rich with life lessons.
    I also read an article afterwards in which the researcher said that dogs actually can smell disease in humans long before humans realize they are ill!

    Just imagine if dogs could talkl!!

    • Jennifer Lang December 13, 2011 at 6:19 am #

      It is fascinating to think about….xo

  5. Mom/Grandma Marianne December 13, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Terrific insights as usual! Will add to my ever expanding list of to read when I finish my trip photos. love, Mom

    • Jennifer Lang December 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      It is definitely one of my faves…xo

  6. Joanne Jagoda December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    This sounds like the perfect book for my book group. I am going to recommend it with a capital R! I love when I start books that I unexpectedly love and don’t want them to end.They somehow become a part of your being and you always remember them. Hope you are doing well. Joanne

    • Jennifer Lang December 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      It is a great book group book. So much to discuss and explore in terms of the human condition. ON a different note, Zondra Barricks is here and we were catching up and I was asking about whose children have had children… she wasn’t sure about Shoshana Worship or your girls. What’s the count? Love to all

  7. Paul Miller December 14, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    Thx so much for the review. I shall read this right away! See you all on the weekend! (ps are you a dog lover now?)

    • Jennifer Lang December 14, 2011 at 10:43 am #

      I wouldn’t call myself a dog lover but am curious about their inner psyche… an early mazel tov to you all. We look forward to celebrating with you!

  8. Laura Rotter December 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I loved that book as well. Listened to it in my car driving to and from work!

    • Jennifer Lang December 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Gone are those days [of listening to books on tape to and from work]… or has your status changed? How are the kids? The yoga training? Any other great book recs? xo

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