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#195 ~ The Art of Racing in the Rain

Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Imagine being privy to people’s innermost fears without being able to do anything other than to be there with them.  Enzo has to live that reality with his owners, the Swift family.  Denny Swift, a man who wants nothing more out of life than race, adopts Enzo when he is single and he gives Enzo everything until Eve appears.  Denny eventually marries Eve, but Enzo is hesitant of her.  Even after Zoë is born and Eve shares her birth with him, he remains unsure of how to act around her.  Then he learns her secret even before she does.  He can smell it.  She has cancer and is scared.  So scared that she won’t see a doctor.  When she  is finally diagnosed, it is too late.  Eve’s death is devastating to the Swift family and sparks a custody battle between Denny and Eve’s parents that will bring Denny to his knees financially and may destroy his racing career.  Enzo sees and processes it all.  As he nears the end of his life as  a dog and looks forward to the next, he longs for a voice and thumbs so that he can help the ones that he loves.

Enzo is a smart dog.  He is a dog who soaks in his environment and learns from everything – conversations, experiences, TV shows, and through Denny’s racing tapes. Having Enzo as the narrator was refreshing.  He wasn’t all knowing, but he is always aware.  When he wasn’t privy to conversations or events, he made assumptions based upon past experience or what he’d seen on TV.  This novel also highlights the way that humans are different around other humans than they are around dogs.  We constantly censor ourselves around other people, it matters little if they are strangers or love ones, but we will say and do anything around pets without giving it a second thought.  Imagine if dogs were as sentient as Enzo.  What a burden that would be for an animal who can only communicate through barks, howls, and gestures he hopes will be  meaningful to humans.  No wonder that the Mongolians believed that dogs would be reincarnated into humans.  They deserving of a voice.

I am not a big fan of racing, but I liked the way that driving techniques and conventional wisdom was woven into the novel. The scene with Denny test driving a car with Enzo with him was among my favorite.  Dogs always seem so happy in a car, particularly when they have their heads sticking out the window, enjoying the speed and the wind.  It was the perfect place for Danny and his best friend enjoy life.

Although I’ve heard incredible things about this novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I really enjoyed it.  To me it was almost perfect until that last chapter.  Before I read it, I loaned The Art of Racing in the Rain to my co-worker when he needed something to read on the flight from Charlotte to Denver earlier this month.  He finished it on our trip and enjoyed it, but didn’t care for the last chapter either.  I would be interested to know the author’s thoughts it.  In all, I highly recommend this novel.  Enzo is so lovable and vulnerable.  The idea of having a dog like him to look after my family is such a reasuring thought.  The Art of Racing in the Rain is a book for dog lovers of all kinds.  If you don’t have a dog, it just might convince you to take the plunge.

+++++

lh dds 1 - button sizeThe Art of Racing in the Rain was a popular selection with my Dog Days of Summer blogger participants.  Of the seven bloggers who have posted reviews so far this week, four reviewed this novel.  Here are links to their reviews:

Lisa’s post on Books on the Brain
Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit
Susan from Carlina Gal Literary Cafe
Jen from Jen’s Book Thoughts

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20 Comments

  • At 2009.08.28 08:50, Red Headed Book Child said:

    This book was a big hit with my fellow booksellers when it came out. I never read it but it’s always been on my list.

    • At 2009.08.28 08:53, Fyrefly said:

      I just listened to this this week (haven’t written a review yet, though – I’m way backlogged) and I liked it well enough, but I wasn’t crazy about the plot… I mean, if you take away the fact that it was narrated by a dog, the actual story didn’t have a whole lot to hook me in. It did make me miss my puppy, though. 🙂

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      • At 2009.08.28 09:34, Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) said:

        I really enjoyed this book and would love to pick Stein’s brain about the last chapter.

        Great review, and my dog loves to hand his head out the window unless we are going 50mph or more. He really just loves being in a car…period…and that was my favorite scene as well.

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        • At 2009.08.28 09:57, lisamm said:

          Excellent, very thorough review! My dog loves being in the car as well (maybe that’s a universal doggie trait).

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          • At 2009.08.28 10:16, Jen Forbus said:

            I LOVED the car scene too – and both my puppies love the car, but I don’t let them stick their heads out the window (mean Mommy). Although I think I have to credit my favorite part of the book to being the scene where Enzo realizes the zebra represents our fears. I really enjoyed that integration in the book, but I’m still trying to determine why a zebra represented it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing; I was just wondering if there was more there that I was missing. I also want the t-shirt Stein has on his website that has the zebra quote. 😉

            • At 2009.08.28 10:23, diane said:

              I so loved the audio version of this book. I will never forget Enzo 🙂

              • At 2009.08.28 10:44, Valerie said:

                Great review, Jennifer. I’ve also enjoyed reading what everyone else thought of this book.

                I liked the ending–it made sense to me but I can understand that it might be jarring to some readers.

                I keep telling my husband he should read this book–at one time he worked with Michael Andretti (Newman-Haas racing) and so he is a definite “car guy”– but alas, he is almost 100% a non-fiction reader. I’ll keep trying :-).

                BTW love the bookmark :-).

                • At 2009.08.28 11:43, Alyce said:

                  I really liked the book, but I totally get what you’re saying about the last chapter. I had mixed feelings about it too, but just decided to enjoy it for what it was, even if it was unrealistic and fanciful.

                  I haven’t really been into racing either, but loved the introduction through this book, and enjoyed the racing analogies.

                  • At 2009.08.28 11:57, Kathy said:

                    I really loved this book and Enzo made me think of our dog since she likes to watch TV too. She prefers animals to racing, though. The ending didn’t really bother me.

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                    • At 2009.08.28 19:58, Jennifer said:

                      I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who loved the scene with Enzo in the car! Maybe that can be the photo contest for next year’s Dog Days of Summer!

                      • At 2009.08.29 20:11, bibliophile23 said:

                        I’m putting this book on my list. Books about dogs are always hits with me.

                        I also have an award for you here.

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                        • At 2009.08.30 04:53, Meghan said:

                          I definitely think I would like this book, I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet! Great review. =)

                          • At 2009.08.31 00:11, Melody said:

                            I’ve read a lot of great reviews about this book! I’m going to add it onto my wishlist!

                            BTW, I enjoy reading your blog and will add your link to my google reader. 🙂

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                              • At 2009.12.26 17:06, Rahul said:

                                Hi, i immensly enjoyed reading the book..am a huge fan of enzo now..the book was giftd to me by fren who bought it online from a1books and i am really thankful to him now for this tresure of a book!

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                                  • At 2011.05.29 16:22, Current Bestsellers « Bestsellers said:

                                    […] literatehousewife.com: Imagine being privy to people’s innermost fears without being able to do anything other than to be there with them.  Enzo has to live that reality with his owners, the Swift family.  Denny Swift, a man who wants nothing more out of life than race, adopts Enzo when he is single and he gives Enzo everything until Eve appears.  Denny eventually marries Eve, but Enzo is hesitant of her.  Even after Zoë is born and Eve shares her birth with him, he remains unsure of how to act around her.  Then he learns her secret even before she does Read the full review […]

                                    • At 2011.10.22 14:45, Constantine said:

                                      The last chapter is what made this book. Even though the ending is predictable, it is still majestically bitter-sweet.

                                      • At 2012.05.09 09:27, #425 ~ Emily and Einstein said:

                                        […] into the belief that he would become a dog after death. This book reminded me of the best parts of The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you enjoy stories of women facing difficult odds and making their own way, this is a book for […]

                                        • At 2013.03.23 11:36, dogearedcopy/Tanya said:

                                          I remember listening to the audio edition of this book a few years ago and the effect was somewhat paradoxical: I was extremely involved with the story and vowed never to read/listen to anything like it again! Pretty much from the very beginning, I was crying (in fact I had to stop listening to the book while I was driving! ) and, during the scenes involving the in-laws and the custody battle I was extremely stressed out. About three-quarters of the way through the book, I felt like an emotional punching bag; and by the end of the book… totally pwned. I realize that any author’s intent is to create a story that the reader can become involved in; but with The Art of Racing in the Rain, I felt that I had been totally manipulated. Then I started to think about other dog stories, cancer stories, children-as-victim stories…. and realized that these were devices that many authors use to invoke a very specific and basic response. I began to see these emotional triggers in a lot of books, most artlessly, often gratuitously. Now, I avoid the most blatant of these kinds of books: If the book has a dog on the cover, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll give it a pass :-/

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