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.
The 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:
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