The Art Of Racing in the Rain
In Garth Stein’s touching story, the appealing narrator is a dog named Enzo, who (of course) cannot communicate as he'd like to, by talking with his family. Instead, he pours his considerable heart and spirit into this book, sharing his experiences and reflections with readers. Although Enzo is frustrated with his limitations as a canine, he comforts himself with the fact that, according to a documentary he watched about Mongolia (Enzo is a dedicated television viewer), he will be reincarnated as a human. And he knows a lot about being a human after watching his master Denny Swift, who is a hero to him.
At the beginning of the book, Enzo is just barely clinging to life, so he spends time reflecting upon his past. As Denny, who is a race car driver, has told him, drivers cannot contemplate their moves while they make them. Racing is like living; you can only do it and then remember it at a later date. For Enzo, in these last days he immerses himself in memories.
His reminiscences begin with the day Denny chose him out of a heap of puppies, taking him from a country farm to an apartment in Seattle. Although Enzo doesn't enjoy living there, he adores Denny and thus looks on this as a good life. He later develops a fondness for Eve, "the interloper," who Denny falls in love with and marries. He stands in literally for Denny on the day that his daughter, Zoë, is born. Denny is off racing in Daytona, Florida while Enzo is at the new mother's side.
For Denny, the joyous day of Zoë's birth is overshadowed as his racing career takes a beating. After a year of obtaining sponsorships in order to enter the race, he loses this hard-won opportunity to shine when a driver on his team has an accident. Denny returns to his day job as a customer service representative at a luxury auto shop.
Shortly after giving birth, Eve asks Enzo to promise to protect the little girl, and the dog's feelings of commitment to his family are intensified. Enzo's role in the family becomes that of caretaker and watchdog. He takes his role of protecting his loved humans seriously --- and faithfully not only watches over them, but also manipulates their lives, often in humorous ways, to ensure that they are taken care of. This loyalty will be needed as their lives are about to unravel.
When the family moves to a small house, Enzo enjoys a cozy backyard and sunny spots to lounge in. Eve chooses to go back to work, so Zoë enters daycare, which leaves Enzo at home, bored, until Denny begins leaving the television set on for him. But his happiness is short-lived, for he is the first one to realize that something is seriously wrong with Eve; his acute sense of smell has detected a decaying odor emanating from within her head. When Denny is away from home at his next race, Eve wakes up with a terrible pain. It's so bad that she gathers Zoë and goes away, leaving Enzo alone for days.
While this is unfolding, Denny's team has won first place, and he's had an offer from a big-time team, but he must turn his back on the racing he loves as he has more urgent matters on his mind. Eve suffers an increasing array of terrible symptoms, such as mood swings, vertigo and nausea. She sometimes screams from pain yet refuses to seek medical care. And when she inevitably receives the worst diagnosis possible, the family is torn apart, beginning an intense emotional rollercoaster ride. Through it all, Enzo supports them in every possible way.
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is getting all kinds of buzz, and it deserves every accolade. Readers will be moved by this warm hug of a story (and may find themselves looking searchingly into the eyes of their own canine companions). Enzo is a charming and witty narrator. His tale, while hilarious at times, is quite often heartbreaking, but it is ultimately uplifting and heartwarming. And I found the ending to be oh so very satisfying!
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 7, 2011
The Art Of Racing in the Rain
- Publication Date: June 9, 2009
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 321 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- ISBN-10: 0061537969
- ISBN-13: 9780061537967