REVIEW: “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

321 pages, paperback

First published May 13, 2008, by Harper Collins

My synopsis

Enzo is basically a human — a very insightful human — in a dog’s body. He loves auto racing as much as, if not more than, his master Denny. We follow Enzo from his puppy days to old age, and experience along with him all the love, excitement, loss and turmoil that two-legged and four-legged life brings.

If your dog could talk, what kinds of stories would he tell? What wisdom would he impart? In “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” Enzo observes the joys and sorrows of his family — Denny, his wife Eve and their young daughter Zoë. He’s learned a lot from watching racing tapes and TV. He blends stories from the Swift household with illustrations from the racetrack that apply to everyday life.

“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.

“Your car goes where your eyes go. Simply another way of saying that which you manifest is before you.

“I know it’s true; racing doesn’t lie.”

My review

You can feel, from reading Enzo’s musings, his strong desire to someday be reborn as a human. He tries to behave like one, becoming frustrated when his instincts get the better of him and his limitations — oh, to have opposable thumbs — keep him from doing the things Denny can do. There is so much to love about him. He is the epitome of “man’s best friend,” sticking close by Denny through hellish moments and comforting Eve and Zoë when they’re sick or scared. There are some really heartfelt scenes that gave me a new perspective on the bonds between dogs and humans. And the ending was beautifully moving.

The only thing that frustrated me about this book was that Enzo’s philosophical ramblings felt a bit contrived at times, like the author was trying to make him TOO human for his own good. But I’m hard pressed to find anything else I don’t like about this book. At times it made me really sad, but it’s a good reflection of life. And life just sucks sometimes, yeah?

It was such a treat to hear Garth Stein speak last spring about this book and the forthcoming movie adaptation. I hope the film does the novel justice!

About the author

Photo courtesy of garthstein.com; bio courtesy of Goodreads

Garth Stein is the author of four novels: the New York Times bestselling gothic/historical/coming-of-age/ghost story, “A Sudden Light”; the internationally bestselling “The Art of Racing in the Rain”; the PNBA Book Award winner, “How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets”; and the magically realistic “Raven Stole the Moon.” He is also the author of the stage play “Brother Jones.” He has a dog, he’s raced a few cars, climbed a bunch of really tall trees, made a few documentary films, and he lives in Seattle with his family. He’s co-founder of Seattle7Writers.org, a non-profit collective of 74 Northwest authors working together to energize the reading and writing public.


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