Book review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

Doesn’t the title get your attention? It did me, especially when on the cover was a picture of a dog’s face. As you know my daughter and I volunteer at the library used book sales. Of course, with serving comes buying. We frequently find interesting books for no more than a dollar. While I watch the till, Daphne will browse. Then we swap and it is my turn to browse. I saw the spine of the book first and I had to see what would a book be about with that kind of title. Then when I saw the dog’s face I was even more puzzled. The quick blurb on the back of the cover didn’t say much except that the tail (ha! A little pun, intended) was told by a dog.

I figured the book was worth a try. I will tell you now that I absolutely loved it! In fact, I read it in a few hours last night. I couldn’t put it down.

Enzo is the wise old dog who is telling the story of his life from his adoption by Denny as a pup to painful aging. Denny is a good guy who wants to be a race car driver, but in the meantime if working for BMW. Enzo is his best bud. Enzo is smart and witty and funny, and doesn’t like the fact that he can’t speak. He also believes that man did not evolve from monkeys whom he says are just plain dumb, but that they are descended from dogs who are smart and able to understand behavior. He does also regret that he doesn’t have opposable thumbs. That is the only good thing about a monkey. He also believes the Far Eastern tradition that when a dog dies he comes back as a man.

The author did a splendid job of describing life from the dog’s point of view, right down to his sense of taste and smell. So Enzo and Denny are best buds, but then Denny falls madly in love with Eve and brings her home. Soon a baby girl, named Zoe, follows. The dog describes their sex in a matter of fact tone that actually is rather amusing. Thankfully there is not a lot of detail.

He knows Eve is ill by his sense of smell and wishes he could relate this to Denny so that Eve can get help. As he says a couple of times in frustration, all he has are gestures to try and get his point across and that doesn’t always work, as in this case.

Time brings with it adventure such as when Denny is out on the race track. This is where we learn he is an expert in racing cars on the track in the rain. He gets some great chances, but then Eve becomes terminal. His in-laws want custody of Zoe and are willing to defame Denny’s character and accuse him of a heinous crime. Denny runs out of money, loses his home, and his daughter, but he never gives up. As a successful race car driver one needs to focus on what is coming up ahead and be prepared for it. Another ingredient to success is making failures turn into successes.

I was on the sidelines of the track watching this all unfold and hoping that all would be well. I can tell you I would have hated this book if everything had gone wrong and there was no hope. This book is a definite keeper on my bookshelf.

Get the book, curl up on the couch with a warm blankie, and enjoy. You’ll laugh, cry, get angry, smile with relief, and hold your breath. Enzo would approve of you reading his story. And you might even pick up a few driving tips.

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