Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Art of Racing in The Rain by Garth Stein

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

This is actually my third time reading this book, but it is truly one of those novels that changes you profoundly each time you read it. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone and everyone! The Art of Racing in The Rain is gorgeously written, inspirational, and absurdly funny. I personally think Garth Stein captured the life of this unique dog perfectly: Enzo's doggish voice leaves the reader glancing thoughtfully over at their own canine pet, wondering at his secret ambitions. I love how the constant connections of racing to life aren't forced, but flow with the story, and will make sense to both younger and older readers. Enzo, I feel, has a better grasp on life than most humans do. His lessons will stay with the reader for years to come. 
I fall completely in love with Enzo and his whole family each time I read about them. How can you not? The simple way Enzo views people makes it easy to see who they really are.  Danny is an ideal owner and treats Enzo with adoration and respect, and his struggle to keep custody of his young daughter after his wife dies Zoë is incredible. It was touching when Enzo stayed awake all night to watch over Eve, and guard her from the 'monsters' brought on by her sickness. And yet, despite his amazing grasp on humanity, Garth Stein doesn't overlook the fact that Enzo is a dog, and therefore, has doggy instincts. There is a hilarious scene where Enzo believes a stuffed animal has viciously torn itself apart, when, in truth, it was actually him who destroyed the innocent toy after he was mistakenly left behind by his family. The ending broke my heart then re-mended it. I have never, and I don't think I ever will, come close to finding a dog book as heart- wrenching as this one.  Enzo is a truly special character: you won't ever forget him or his clear, honest perception on life. And you'll definitely never take opposable thumbs for granted ever again!

My Favorite Quote: "There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose."
(There's so many lovely quotes in here I just had to put another one!) "We too, must shatter the mirrors. We must look in to ourselves and root out the distortions until that thing which we know in our hearts is perfect and true, stands before us."

About The Author: Garth Stein is the author of the New York Times best selling literary novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Now published in 23 languages, The Art of Racing in the Rain was the #1 BookSense selection for June, 2008, the Starbucks spring/summer 2008 book selection, and has been on the IndieBound™ bestseller list since its publication. Stein's previous novel, How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and was a BookSense Pick in both hardcover and paperback. Raven Stole the Moon was Stein's first novel. He has also written a full-length play, Brother Jones, and produced a number of award-winning documentaries. With an M.F.A. in film from Columbia University (1990), Garth worked as a documentary film maker for several years, and directed, produced, or co-produced several award winning films. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Seattle, Garth's ancestry is diverse: his mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish emigrants from Austria. After spending his childhood in Seattle and then living in New York City for 18 years, Garth returned to Seattle, where he currently lives with his wife, three sons, and their dog, Comet.

Other Books You May Enjoy: Marley and Me by John Grogan, A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, Racing in The Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein ( this is a children's version of The Art of Racing in  The Rain), The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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