The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

In the morning before breakfast I go outside to say hi to my three balls of fur. I open the door and a black little nose is right there, sniffing at the air. I crouch to give her a pat and she starts barking loudly and jumping about, excited. That’s Blackie, an all-black-with-a-spatter-of-white-on-the-chest little dog. I call her little but that doesn’t have anything to do with her age. From behind a big potted plant I see her mother, a pair of intelligent eyes that look straight at me, and I read the question there: do you have any food? Off to one side lies Honey, big and fat – she barely stirs but I know that if I go to her she’ll start licking my hands slow, methodical, affectionate.
Have I wondered what goes on in their heads, what they would tell me if they could talk? I have. That is why, when I saw “The Art of racing in the Rain” I knew this was the kind of book I would like to read. Not because I’d find some answers (I wish!) but because I love animals. I did love Enzo from the first page, the old lab with an obsession for opposable thumbs, a believer in Mongolian legends. And even if it was obvious from the beginning how the story was going to end, I still wanted to read it.

Enzo was adopted by Denny when he was but a few weeks old. Over the years, the two of them forge a beautiful friendship – there are joys and sorrows and moments of uneasiness, but they are always by each other’s side. Enzo is no ordinary dog – the writer gives him a unique voice, even if that cannot be translated into words:

I tried. I tried as hard as I could to form words for him but they wouldn’t come. I tried to beam my thoughts into his head via telepathy. I tried to send him the pictures I saw in my mind. I twitched my ears. I cocked my head. I nodded. I pawed.
Until he smiled at me and stood.
“Thanks, Enzo,” he would say to me on those days. “You’re not too tired, are you?”
I would stand and wag. I’m never too tired.

Enzo likes to watch tv and he’s a big fan of racing, a passion he shares with Denny, who would leave every now and then to train for racing competitions. Over the course of the entire novel, racing becomes more than a passion, it’s another analogy for life:
“The race is long. It is better to drive within oneself and finish the race behind the others than it is to drive too hard and crash.”

Apart from racing, Enzo enjoys movies and we get to find out about his favorite actors: Steve McQueen, Al Pacino and Paul Newman. There’s also quite a funny observation concerning George Clooney that made me chuckle. In fact I found myself in turns, smiling, nodding, getting excited and in the end, crying.
I loved the end – apart from the inevitable drama there was also hope and a wish that came true, and that was touching and I smiled behind my sadness.

*Read in November, 2011

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7 Responses to The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

  1. Vishy says:

    Beautiful review, Delia! I loved the first few passages where you are talking about your own three dogs. I also loved that passage about Enzo trying to form words. (Is Enzo named after Enzo Ferrari?) This book looks quite interesting, starting from the title. After reading your review, I now want to read the book.

    • Delia says:

      Yes, the dog in the story is named after Enzo Ferrari – I didn’t know that until reading this book. It’s a nice heart-warming story and there’s going to be a movie made after it, coming out next year. I’d like to watch that.

  2. Jenners says:

    I was curious to read this book to see what it would be like to hear from a dog. I thought the author did a good job of capturing how they might feel … but the story took such a weird turn for Denny that I wasn’t quite prepared for that drama!

    • Delia says:

      Where would we be without drama? I was really impressed by how Denny handled the situation, it could have been a lot worse, he could have lost his daughter. Also the racing analogy was quite good, I like how the author switched between what was happening in Denny’s life and the races. And I’m not into cars at all.

  3. Delia, thank you for recommending ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’. I finished reading it today, at one sitting. As you know, I am an animal lover too, and I think I have done a huge favour to myself by reading this book. At several junctures, I broke down and kept removing, cleaning my glasses, while my dog began licking the tears that rolled down my cheeks. So heartwarming and moving!

    Also, I am not into cars at all. But the way Enzo explained the analogy, it didn’t appear like a foreign theme.

    It’s one of my favourite books. I will write my thoughts in a while.

    Thank you once again. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deepika,
      I’m glad you liked the book so much, it’s such a wonderful story, isn’t it?
      I’m not into cars either but I had a similar reaction to yours.
      I’ve read somewhere that they are making a movie starring Patrick Dempsey. That should be interesting to watch.

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