I am sided on how I feel about this book. Part of me liked it while another part of me was a bit disappointed. I didn't like the ending which I found to be very abrupt. There were a few places in the book that I found humorous, but the overall story line was a little boring to follow. I don't really care for racing, so maybe that was my problem with this book. There were many mentions of races and explanations of racing, so I just had to skim over those pages. The racing aspect does blend in with the story line, but maybe that was my overall issue with the book. Perhaps if I was a race car fan, I would have liked it more. I give it 3.5 stars, but that is almost being generous. However, I'm glad I read it & it was a quick read.
The Art of Racing in the Rain caught my eye initially through a newsletter or recommendation on PaperbackSwap.com. The story is told by Enzo, the faithful and loving, but very old, dog of a semi-professional race car driver. Like I said Enzo is old and is very close to dying, but this is okay to him as he fully believes that a dog’s next step in the living cycle is to come back as a man, and Enzo desperately longs for thumbs. He is convinced of this return to the world as a human from documentaries that he watches through the day when his master is at work.
So Enzo narrates the story of his master’s life, Denny, that he has had the privilege to experience. It is a gut-wrenching story of Denny’s wife getting sick and ultimately dying, of Denny having his only daughter stripped from him by his (possibly well-meaning, but very manipulative) parents-in-law. The fight to recapture and rebuild what he can of his family, all while juggling work and his other love, racing. Intermixed though the story are tales of racing, Denny and Enzo’s many hours spent watch racing videos (both of Denny and of professional races), Denny’s wisdom in racing situations and how that same wisdom can translate into real-life situations so easily and appropriately.
This book really hooked me in with so many connections. The love of dogs, as a father of kids about the same age as Zoë, Denny’s daughter, and the racing wisdom really spoke to an inner me. I have raced cars, and while a back condition has kept me from the track for several years now, I still hold on to the possibility that I can climb back into my Formula Ford soon. Garth Stein’s ability to take these track sayings, sayings that I used to hear or even use, and cast them over life itself was remarkable. I feel that I learned about myself, how my mind operates, through the experiences, example, and thoughts of Denny. For an author, that I am presuming does not have racing experience, to weave that world into the book in a way that I learn about myself…gifted writing.
Sayings like “No race has even been won in the first corner – but plenty of races have been lost there.” Showing how being aggressive, launching hard (even showing off) early, or being so wrapped up in the excitement of the start of the event, can yield disastrous results, especially in an endurance race. Or “Your car goes where your eyes go.” A truism that is translated to life several times by both Enzo and Denny as, “That which we manifest is before us.” Even talking about the selfishness of a racer and then seeing those same examples in me. These are connections that the non-racer may not be as impacted by, and as such, may not have the same love and respect of this story as I have. I would be interested in other’s thoughts as they read these in the book and if you experience similar understanding or impact.
The other reason that I like this book so much was how Garth Stein was able to take a situation like a dog dying (served up to us on page 2), and then get the reader so wrapped up in the story that when Enzo does actually die, it feels shocking! It is a tear-jerker that you forget about as you are reading and when it does finally happen, the author is still able to draw out that much emotion from the reader.
When I was reading this book, I immediately wanted to give it to my father. He had done some racing of various kinds in the past (and with me), and I thought that he would connect in a similar way as I did. He is also a serious dog-lover, and I thought that the connection to Enzo would be strong. As I was finishing the book though, one of his dogs died, and suddenly. I debated actually giving it to him, torn between the thought of pouring orange juice on an open wound or could the book offering some healing and happiness to the situation, as you really end up loving Enzo and I felt that Enzo was going to get what he believed was coming to him.
In the end, I did give him the book, but it took almost a year for him to start on it. Once he did, he was hooked in the same way I was. Ultimately, while hard with his own dog's passing, he did say that is was beneficial and wished that he had started on it earlier.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein was recommended to me by a very good friend and is nothing at all like the books I normally read. For starters, the narrator of the book is a dog named Enzo and the story is told entirely from his perspective. It’s given me a whole new insight on animals and what they are really thinking and how they feel and the fact that they understand so much more than we give them credit for.
The story begins on the eve of Enzo’s death. He’s an old dog, you see, and as we all have done and will do, he’s reflecting back on his life with his master, Denny, a race car driver and his family. Enzo’s view of the world is very funny and thought provoking. Enzo shares with us his love of television and watching car races as well as a documentary that people in Mongolia believe when a dog passes from this life, he will be reincarnated as a human. Enzo is very clear that his ultimate dream is to come back as a man, find Denny and shake his hand.
Through Enzo’s eyes, we are introduced to Denny’s future wife, Eve and meet their daughter Zoe. With Enzo’s help, I learned more about racing cars than I ever did. Most importantly, we learn from Enzo exactly how loyal a dog is to his pack master and the love he feels for his entire pack. When Denny faces the ultimate adversity, we see it through Enzo’s eyes and feel his helplessness that he can’t fix it. You can’t help but love Enzo. While reading this book, I wished he were with me several times so I could hug him.
This book will make you smile, laugh and cry. This book will make you angry (I absolutely hated the twins and if I had been Enzo, I would have bit them). For me, only a book that truly speaks to my heart is capable of bringing out so many emotions when I read it and The Art of Racing in the Rain did that and more. Get this book, but don’t just read it…savor it. Life is short and Enzo showed me how important it is to make every moment count.