Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art Of Racing In The Rain The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I can safely guarantee that anyone who did NOT like this book is not truly a dog person. That may seem like a bold claim to preface a book review with; that is how strongly I feel about this wonderful novel.

As to how I picked out this novel--a co-worker and I were discussing books we had read recently and she said, "You know what book you would love? The Art of Racing in the Rain. Oh my goooddddddd, it's SOOOOO sad, but you would love it!" Okay, do people judge my book tastes by how sad a novel is?? I had a chuckle over that.

She was right though. This IS a sad novel. It's not despairing or pointlessly depressing, but rather bitter-sweet. If you wonder what goes through your dog's head or how canines possibly view us, this is a perfect book for you to read.

The Art Of... introduces us to our furry protagonist Enzo, a delightful mixed breed picked from a litter on a farm. Throughout the novel we read as Enzo ages, suffers from hip dysplasia and the desire to have opposable thumbs--be human, as it were.

He is a gentle narrator, crafting a loving picture of his family--Denny, his master, being the prominent human featured in the novel. We also meet Denny's girlfriend (then wife) Eve, and their child.

The book expounds fairly frequently on race car driving; there are little tidbits about tricks to driving and information given on the most famous race car drivers in history. (Note: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is never mentioned, and he is incidentally the only race car driver I can bring to mind.) However, the information given is not boring or over emphasized--it is mainly used as an allegory to supplement the over arcing story of Enzo's life with Denny.

"The art of racing in the rain" is Denny's gift as he is more talented than most when it comes to driving in inclement weather, and so we watch as he suffers through death, evil in-laws, criminal accusations, loneliness, hopelessness, and we root for Denny. It's easy to draw the comparison between "racing in the rain" as Denny's talent, but also his ability to push forward during the bad times.

Of course in the end, like all other animal novels (Beautiful Joe, Black Beauty, etc), Enzo reaches the final stages of his life and that is when I sat on my bed, eagerly devouring every word and literally sobbing all over my duvet. I haven't actually shed tears over a book in a long time (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was the last one I cried reading), so I was surprised that in a span of a few paragraphs, I was so overwhelmed with sadness.

I went into the next room when I closed the final page and I held my dear dog close to me. I thought about all the times I have mistreated him by raising my voice, pushing him away from me or punishing him for being naughty. I considered the whimsical nature of this book and how the artistic liberties may have made dogs (Enzo, at least) more human and understanding than they physically or emotionally are.

Finally I decided that even though they may possibly not have the same awareness that Enzo did, there is absolutely no harm in treating our beloved companions with dignity and love. For them, we are their sun and they orbit around us. We will live years past them and their journey will be short and vivid.

This is why I am so deeply moved by this novel: I have been changed in the way I see pets and my relation to my own dog has been affected. Four stars out of five for making me want to be a better owner and a more understanding master. Please read this book if you have a dog or ever want to own one. You will not be disappointed.

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