Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Plot Summary: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), 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. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

I don’t usually review adult fiction, unless it’s also a crossover to YA. THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is adult fiction, and it’s not a YA crossover, which means I wouldn’t ordinarily review it. But, in this case, I have to make an exception.

I checked this out from the library, but now I need to pick up my own copy from the bookstore. It is amazing, heart-wrenching, joyful, funny, and will leaving you sobbing with a pile of tissue, yet feeling elated at the same time.

A story told from an animal’s perspective is usually pegged as a children’s book – one that no one will want to read. But this is definitely not one of those stories. Enzo’s personality and wit come across clearly, as well as his doggie ways. I found myself cheering him on many times, even though I knew some of the things he was doing would never come from a real dog. But that didn’t matter. And, through him, we feel an immense amount of sympathy for his owner, Denny, and all the things this poor man goes through.

There is car racing sprinkled throughout the story, but you don’t need to be a racing fan to enjoy this book. Nor do you need to be a dog lover. It’s just a story about the parallels between human life and racing, told from the perspective of someone who isn’t human.

I rarely cry when I read books, and this book made me cry. In a very good way. I enjoyed it on multiple levels – as a daughter, spouse, parent, and explorer of life. If you are any of these things, you’ll enjoy it too.

11 comments:

Bish Denham said...

I love just about all things dog and I haven't read a good dog story in a long time so I guess I going to have to see if my library has this one. Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

I love when a book makes me cry. And then I try to figure out what sparked it.
Thanks for the great review!

Stacy Nyikos said...

Wow, this sounds like an awesome book. I take my hat off to anyone who can pull off writing a book from an animal's perspective and still reach the adult audience. The only one I can think of off of the top of my head is George Orwell's Animal Farm. This sounds like a must read!

Thanks for visiting my blog :-)

Tabitha said...

Bish - then you will definitely love this book. :) Enzo is a great dog, and I'm not a dog person. :)

PJ - same here, especially since it doesn't happen often. That makes it extra special. :)

Stacy - same here. And I totally agree about Animal Farm. I read that in high school and could not pull my eyes away. It's still burned into my brain, even though it's not something I'd want to curl up and read on a relaxing evening. :) RACING IN THE RAIN is more of a relaxing book, and a good one at that. :) Thanks for stopping by!

Anne Spollen said...

I love dogs, and I think it's amazing that a writer can write convincingly from that persepective. Amazing.

Tabitha said...

Same here. I have a hard enough time writing from another human's perspective! :)

I just thought of another book that handled animals' perspectives well: THE UNDERNEATH.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Just came up with one other one myself. How about WATERSHIP DOWN. Oh, but isn't that for kids?

Tabitha said...

Yeah, good one! I think it's a crossover. I can't remember if it was marketed to adults or kids when it was first published, but it's definitely not for younger kids.

Miss Midwesterly said...

Just read this book. Wobbly and crying. But yes, elated! And, Watership Down was absolutely not a children's book. I was terrified when I read it again last year. :)

Tabitha said...

So glad you liked it! Is it now one of Sprockets' favorites? :)

The last time I read Watership Down, I was in college. I remember being glued to the pages, but that's all I remember. Perhaps I should read it again.

But, yes, it's most definitely not for younger kids...

michaelsean said...

This was a great book. Of course I love dogs too.

Garth just joined Twitter and I am interested to see what he has to say!

http://twitter.com/garthstein