Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The idea of a book about racing cars written from the perspective of a dog sounded absolutely ridiculous to me. So with quite a bit of hesitation I reluctantly read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein for my office book club. What a pleasant surprise!

Enzo the dog is a philosopher with a nearly human soul. He has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

This novel was heart-wrenching and hilarious. Stein's attention to detail was amazing, like he really sat down and thought about each moment and how it would appear from a dog's perspective. The story is tragic but ultimately uplifting and filled with family, love, loyalty, and hope. Once I started I literally couldn't put it down, and I even came very close to tears toward the end. Some of the parts about racing seemed to go on and on, and at one point I wondered whether some of the situations Denny found himself in were as realistic as they could be, but overall I don't really have anything negative to say about this book. It's a super fun, quick read.

I've never particularly liked dogs, but oh how I loved Enzo. Maybe I'm secretly a dog person after all...

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