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.