Friday, November 20, 2009

Fiction Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a unique novel because its narrator and main character is a dog. Yes, a dog. Now, let me say right up front that I’m not really a dog person, so I wondered when I started this book whether I’d be able to get into it. Not only did I get into it, but I really loved it and came to love its narrator, Enzo. Despite being a dog, he is very wise. Because he’s a dog, he has spent his entire life observing humans and he has some wonderful insights into us and the way we live our lives.

The book opens with Enzo explaining his limitations:

Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that’s why I’m here now waiting for Denny to come home – he should be here soon – lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.

Denny is Enzo’s owner - and best friend – and he’s a racecar driver (hence the title). Denny shares his passion with Enzo by watching racing on TV and videos with him, including in-car videos of his own races. Their lives change quite a bit when Eve enters the picture, then again when Eve and Denny have a child, Zoe, but Enzo adjusts and grows to love them both. Tragedy hits the family, compounded by a series of equally devastating events afterward.

Through it all, Enzo shares his unique perspective with the reader, based on what he sees and hears and on all that he’s learned through watching television. I especially liked Enzo’s philosophical musings, like this one:

I will never tire of watching tapes with Denny. He knows so much, and I have learned so much from him. He said nothing more to me; he continued watching his tapes. But my thoughts turned to what he had just taught me. Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.

I told you he was wise. And that was actually a problem for a few people in my book group who felt the book was unrealistic and Enzo too intelligent. For the rest of us, we had no problem suspending belief for a while, accepting the premise, and going along for the exciting ride. I know nothing about either dogs or car racing, but I really enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain. I read far too late into the night, laughed out loud, and cried – all signs for me of a great book.

NOTE: Although I'm a big fan of audio books, this might be one that's better to read on paper. A few people in my book group were disappointed with the audio version and found it hard to follow.

321 pages, Harper Collins


  1. This sounds like a fun read. I love dogs, but I don't usually go for books narrated by animals. But since you said the story made it worth suspending disbelief, I am interested. :-)

  2. Sue....excellent review. Glad this was a big hit with you. I LOVED the audio version :)