The Art of Racing in the Rain ~ Garth Stein

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racingintherainI have to admit that I was avoiding this book. I saw it coming across the desk at the library with some frequency, but you know, it’s a dog book. They always get me. As a rule, I don’t cry when I read books. Movies, TV shows, commericials, yes. But not books. First book that made me cry – Where the Red Fern Grows. Marley and Me had me full on sobbing. You get the picture. If someone hadn’t actually sent this book to me, I would have kindly ignored it. I’m so glad I didn’t. I just loved Enzo. I love the name Enzo. I love how it reminds me of the character in the movie The Big Blue. I love the battle in his head between being a dog and wanting to be a human. I love his philosophy about pretty much everything, but especially about how dogs are smarter than monkeys.Here’s his:

“Case-in-Point #2: The Werewolf”

The full moon rises. The fog clings to the lowest branches of the spruce trees. The man steps out of the darkest corner of the forest and finds himself transformed into…

A monkey?

I think not.

That was page 20 and that pretty much clinched it for me. I was sticking with Enzo from there on out.

Here’s a review of the book that I did for work:

Try to imagine what it would be like if you were surrounded by people you loved, but were unable to speak to them. Imagine you could help them if only you had thumbs or could tell them what you know. Welcome to Enzo’s world. Enzo is a dog who wants desperately  to be a man. He has seen a documentary on TV about how dogs in Mongolia come back as humans after they die, if they are ready.  Enzo is ready. But first he needs to tell the story of his owner, Denny Swift, a talented race-car driver who never seems to get a break. Just as his career is beginning to take off, Denny suffers a great loss that is only the beginning of his troubles. Denny sacrifices his career and puts all of his energy and resources into keeping his family together. Enzo watches Denny with all the steadfastness of a good dog. He knows not to underestimate Denny’s strength and will. Enzo never gives up on Denny. Enzo is a philosopher. He applies Denny’s zen-like rules of car-racing to life and in moments of sheer desperation does whatever it takes to help Denny without words or thumbs.

There is definitely a risk in writing a book through a dogs point of view, but Garth Stein pulls it off without a hitch. He has a wonderful sense of the emotions and behaviors of both dogs and people.  Enzo is a character that grabs you from the get-go. His desire, loyalty and quirky sense of humor are infectious. Denny’s ordeal is gut-wrenching but his redemption is bittersweet and well worth the wait. Stein has a gift for writing. I have never been interested in car-racing and I was afraid that would be a distraction for me, but the philosophy and almost poetic descriptions of car-racing actually drew me into the story. There were moments when I would just stop and let it all sink in. In case you were wondering, this is a dog book after all, I did cry (and I never cry when reading books) but it was a good cry.  Go Enzo!

I was really taken aback by the race-car philosopy. I want to pull out some of the phrases and just post them at my desk as little mantras. I’m still working on the one that goes, “The car goes where the eyes go.” This was a revelation for me. When I was a kid, I was terrible at riding my bike. Why. Because whenever a car would drive by me, I’d look at it and even though I wanted to keep going straight, I felt compelled to swerve into the car. Now I know why.

Great characters, great story, great writing. I’m so glad I read this book. (Thanks Sean!)

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2 thoughts on “The Art of Racing in the Rain ~ Garth Stein

    Jeane said:
    July 29, 2009 at 4:12 am

    I like that little quip “the car goes where the eyes go.” I still remember that my driver’s ed teacher taught me to look to the end of a curve, and steering through the curve would follow easier. I still think it most of the time when steering through a curve, if that makes sense.

      ta responded:
      August 3, 2009 at 11:38 pm

      I think so. Well. Maybe not. My brain doesn’t work that way. Maybe that’s why I don’t drive!

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