THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
By Garth Stein
Harper Paperbacks, New York, NY (2009)
When a friend loaned me The Art of Racing in the Rain, I was not thrilled by the idea of reading a book about a talking dog. But about one-fourth of the way through this fascinating book, I actually began to believe that this dog could talk and think like a human.
Enzo is a retriever-terrier mix who is at the end of his life and is taking stock of what has transpired in his many years living with race car driver Denny Swift, his wife Eve and their daughter Zoe. He knows he is part retriever because he contends they are the problem solvers. He also laments the fact he cannot use his paws as hands because he has no thumbs, and he cannot speak the things he is thinking because his tongue is long and flat and loose. Enzo spends many hours watching television, mainly the National Geographic channel, and learned that it is possible for a dog to be reincarnated as a man, if he is ready. He believes he is ready.
Okay, so far the story sounds a bit odd, but stay with me. The dog’s many observations about life are very insightful and thought-provoking. Through his master Denny, his racing career and his fascination with television, Enzo develops an amazing insight into the humans in his life and makes a big difference in their lives. He sees that life, like racing, is not just about going fast.
This is no Pollyanna story. It includes tragedy, sadness and vindictiveness, but most of all, it is funny, heart-wrenching and uplifting. Much is learned about love and loyalty, as well as hope.
Denny and Enzo suffer through the death of Denny’s wife and the three-year battle over custody of Denny’s daughter Zoe with her maternal grandparents, who use many questionable tactics to try to wrest custody of their granddaughter from her father. Enzo is a big help in eventually returning Zoe to her father’s care, where she is at his side as he excels in his racing career.
Without giving away the remarkable ending, let it be said that The Art of Racing in the Rain will probably be the topic of many lively discussions among book clubs, couples, families and friends.