Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog it's too dark to read.
                                                                                               -Groucho Marx

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

SPOILER ALERT! Be forewarned: I reveal details of this book, such as the ending. Don't be mad at me if you continue and then decide you want to read it in a fresh manner. Also, I am not a book reviewer, I am just posing as  one.

A Facebook friend recommended this novel and she spoke so highly of it that I rushed out to get it.

 With a dog on the cover, I figured that the book would involve one. I am smart like that. Well, I am not so much a dog-lover as a cat-lover who loves her dog. Okay, I am an animal lover; I even love armadillos. I have never even seen one but I heard a story about one as a pet on This American Life, and I loved that one.

The story goes like this: The dog, Enzo, the narrator of the story, is an elderly dog and Buddhist in nature. He is ready to go on to the great beyond and be reincarnated back to mortality as a person. But before he moves on, he has his life story to flashback upon and review. He is also a huge NASCAR fan, but lacks the "redneck" aura. Sorry y'all...

We find out his owner is a young blue-collar, aspiring race car driver named Denny Swift. Working as a mechanic, he has one foot in the racing circuit getting jobs as second-third position drivers on smaller races. Nothing in life comes easy for  Denny. However, he manages to fall in love with Eve, a beautiful but stubborn women with very wealthy and pretentious parents. They marry, buy a house, have a daughter named Zoe and life goes on. But not so fast. Enzo knows long before anyone else that Eve has brain cancer; he smells the decay. Clues draw that something is not right.  She has on-going migraines and seizures. Yet, she still does not seek medical attention.

Enzo tells of the trials and tribulations of life intertwined with racing references and metaphors. He and Denny watch TV, mainly NASCAR car races, but they are also fond of old movies.  Denny flicks on the TV for Enzo to enjoy when he leaves for the garage. As trite as the car -racing messages and life lessons are they certainly ring true: your car will go where your eyes go, never give up, even if you're down laps. I will admit that after awhile I skipped through some of the race car jargon.

The drama unfolds after Eve dies and the manipulative in-laws sue Denny for custody. Through Enzo's eyes, we see Denny's perseverance and loyalty shine through during his climb out of the arduous and painful hole that his life has dumped him. Just just like a race driver, he races on. He reads the road, he has a vision, and with Enzo's companionship and wisdom he earns redemption. Yes, Enzo is wise enough to urinate on the papers Denny is about to sign, giving up on the custody battle and admitting to something he didn't do.  He was simply feeling defeated and out of funds and he was giving up. Enzo knew better. Remember never give up, never give in. Keep racing.

Like any dog book, the dog dies in the end.  Enzo finally succumbs to old age. It was very peaceful and the author does a good job not making it overly sentimental.  After all he is going into a human's body, he believes. It is sad, but not sudden and I even teared up just because I am a softy. I even cried when the above mentioned armadillo died, but I digress.

I loved this book. I expected a light-hearted read and that's what it was. I cannot not love a loving animal book. It was smoothly written. The fairy-tail ending didn't hurt either...


  1. 1. Love the Groucho quote.
    2. Nice writing!

  2. 1. Me too!
    2. Thanks for your help.

  3. I still cry just thinking about this book. It touched my heart in all the right places. To see through the eyes of a dog, life looks so much simpler and more full of love. My dogs are the best thing that happened to me and it makes me see them and love them in a whole new light. If your not a dog lover, you don't need to be, because you can't help but to fall in love with Enzo!!


I heart comments