Book review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Here goes my first book review. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this book!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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This book is a good one for dog lovers or automotive racing lovers, but especially for lovers of both. Written from the perspective of a dog, Enzo, the book follows a man through a lifetime, a dog’s lifetime that is. Enzo describes his life with his owner Denny and his life with Denny’s family, a wife named Eve and a daughter named Zoe. Enzo’s narration is often humorous as he describes human behavior from the perspective of a dog and is indicative of that unconditional love we all feel from our pets. Enzo’s narration also makes his owner Denny someone you want to root for despite his flaws.

Through family hardships Enzo sticks by Denny, trying desperately to be more than a dog. Enzo’s biggest hope is to be reincarnated as a man in his next life and he works hard to be as close to human as he can be to achieve this goal, trying mightily to communicate with and support the people he loves. Enzo is frustrated by his lack of voice and dexterity.

The first-person narration by Enzo really is the heart of the book and makes the story worth reading. His narration will certainly appeal to any dog owner who has wondered what their dog thinks about their life and any dog owner who has felt comforted by their pet during life’s trials. And Enzo’s reflections on life, living, death, and purpose are also endearing.

Other components of the book are less interesting. Denny is a professional race car driver and as such the book uses racing metaphors throughout, especially highlighting the skill necessary to race on a wet track. I could see the value in these metaphors; however, as someone without interest in or knowledge of automotive racing the extended racing sections with racing history and metaphors were a bit difficult to get through sometimes. Enzo often alternated between narrating events and reflecting on racing history and it was those chapters that related racing history that slowed my reading of this book. I could have completely done without these descriptions of racing champions of the past and didn’t feel that they added anything to the story line, except to add a layer of humanity to Enzo by giving him a hobby or interest.

Overall the point of the racing metaphors seemed to be to highlight Denny’s personality, his drive, his determination, and his hard work, though this point could have been made with less of the lengthy racing sections. He had yet to hit it big despite his talent, partly because of life’s obstacles along the way. It is these characteristics that Enzo implies Denny needed when it came to dealing with life’s trials and a real trial for custody of his daughter.

The main drama of the book, that Denny was accused of taking advantage of a teenage girl and, as such, lost custody of his daughter, is off putting and concerning. Denny is shown to be innocent through Enzo’s eyes, but the false accusation of the young girl is not the best, most accurate, or most responsible way to depict these sorts of occurrences. This drama also follows the illness and death of Denny’s wife, which would have been in itself enough for Denny to deal with, raising his daughter alone in his grief. The additional protracted court battle, which drug on as they do in real life, in tortuous slow motion, made the drama a bit over the top, less realistic, and slow and difficult to read.

While the court battle was a low point and the story moved slow, Enzo’s perspective on his owner’s life was entertaining, humorous at times, and heartwarming at others. This is overall a light-hearted book, a quick, enjoyable read, and a glimpse into the possible thoughts of our dogs, our companions in life. Enzo’s description of Denny and Eves’s life together, the addition of new baby Zoe, and even Eve’s illness and death were all well written through the eyes of a dog, making up for the melodrama that followed and the quick wrap up ending.

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