Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN - Garth Stein

Enzo is a special dog. He's insightful and observant and he's convinced that when he dies, his soul will be reborn as a man. But for the time being, Enzo is a dog; a character without opposable thumbs or a voice. He communicates with humans only through gestures. Enzo also happens to be the narrator of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN.

As my friend Michael will tell you, Enzo adopted Denny Swift, an aspiring race-car driver; subsequently, he also adopted the family Denny built during Enzo's life: Denny's wife, Eve, and daughter, Zoe. Through the blessings and the tragedies of the Swift family's life, Enzo observes and he attempts to counsel and protect his family through his gestures.

My friends, family and regular readers of this blog know me to be a zealous dog-lover. I took to THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN immediately. While the logical part of my brain tells me this is fiction and Stein has projected human thought processes on Enzo, the passionate part of me wants to desperately clutch on to this charming notion of what dogs think. Since finishing the book, I even make more of an effort to interpret what my dogs try to tell me. Stein didn't have to convince me my dogs have souls; I believe that simply by looking in their eyes. And when I cried while reading this book, both dogs came over to reassure me and let me know everything was all right.

But Stein doesn't just have a lovable dog in this book. He intricately weaves in life lessons that parallel driving race cars. I'm not a fan of race car driving, but I found myself absolutely amazed at the parallels he developed throughout the plot. Enzo learns about cars and racing by watching the races on television and then he recognizes how the lessons to driving successfully apply to life as well. And many times those lessons make the reader laugh out loud.

Enzo is part lab, and like many dog breeds, the lab is known for its devotion to its family, its pack. Enzo exhibits that devotion as well. He's understanding and compassionate. The few times he is treated as anything less than royalty, he immediately forgives and moves on. While Eve is not consistently loving to Enzo, Enzo is at her side when she needs him most. And Enzo despises the forces that make any effort to act against his family. All of these qualities build Enzo as a dimensional character.

I mentioned that I cried while reading this book. I typically stay far away from any book I know will result in my crying. But the experience of reading this book was worth the painful part, and given the chance to go back, I'd still recommend it to my book club and I'd still read it with as much passion as the first time around. It was a reminder to me of how big a role man's best friend can play in our lives and us in theirs. I highly recommend THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein.

My review of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is part of The Literate Housewife's themed week "The Dog Days of Summer." You can check out her review of the book as well as find links to other reviews at her blog. Remember also that Hershey and Nestle (my Enzos) are still competing in her Dog Days of Summer photo contest. They can use your votes!

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0061537936) from HarperCollins and trade paper (ISBN: 978-0061537967) from Harper Paperbacks.

9 comments:

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe August 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM  

Enjoyed reading your reveiw. I too participated in Dog Days of Summer. I reviewed Racing in the Rain. I enjoyed reading the book. But I enjoyed your review. Thanks so much. You can read my review at http://susansliterarycafe.blogspot.com.

driving lessons ashford kent August 28, 2009 at 5:18 AM  

Sounds like a great book and I will definitely be reading it in the very near future. Congratulations on writing the book and good luck in future. Thanks. Walter.

Serena August 28, 2009 at 9:30 AM  

Great Review. I agree Stein does a great job with this book and I fell right into line with it...I always think my dog is thinking things in his head...if he could only speak English...lol

What did you think of the last chapter...some have had issues with the narration change, etc.

♥Jen♥ August 28, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

I'm actually one of the folks who is o.k. with the last chapter. One of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, uses changing narrators regularly in his books. Not everyone can do it with that same effect, but I think Stein made a good choice because the narrator ceases to exist as he was in the body of the novel. I also think Stein is trying to get across an idea of souls that are meant to be together - soulmates if you will, and I guess that hits home with me because of my own dogs.

My sentimental side is showing! ;)

♥Jen♥ August 28, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I definitely enjoyed reading the book...even the parts that made me cry! :)

Valerie August 28, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

I also am one who thought the ending of the book was fine.

I know my dog thinks I can read his mind. He almost never barks. Therefore for example I know when he needs to go outside when he is sitting by the door :-). sounds corny but again I'm convinced he does think we are capable of reading his mind.

Literate Housewife August 28, 2009 at 6:34 PM  

Great review, Jen! I meant to stop by earlier today but my job got in the way and I decided linking to your post was more important. :)

The fact that this book made you cry is a testament to how good it is.

As you know, the last chapter got to me - and not in a good way. I think that the emotion would have been stronger for me had it ended with Enzo and allowed me to imagine what might have happened next.

Thank you so, so much for your participation in my Dog Days of Summer them week! Your participation and support made this week so much fun for me - and really special, too. There will definitely be a next year. I'm already on the lookout for dog related books.

♥Jen♥ August 28, 2009 at 7:27 PM  

Thank YOU Jennifer. This was fun and you did a fabulous job!! I'll be signin' up for next year's!

Nadia Santos July 2, 2015 at 10:29 PM  

This novel is now on my top ten
favorite books list. It has a unique narrative voice, that makes this
novel both singular as well as inventive, standing apart from the
onslaught of new releases readers face each year. With themes that many
people can empathize with balanced with the racing metaphor, which I
thought would never work coming from a non-racing background yet
ultimately will add to the experience to any reader. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Nadia
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