Thursday, March 12, 2009

Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Summary: 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.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it. -- Harper


I was so excited when our book club selected THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein. I have read so many raving reviews for this book, and I have been desperately wanting an excuse to read it. I almost never read my book club book until a day or two before the meeting, but I just couldn't wait any longer to pick it up after I heard my good friend (who wasn't looking forward to reading it) gushing about how wonderful it was. She was right -- I absolutely adored this book. I loved the story, the characters; and the novel made me laugh (a lot) and even cry (a little.) It was such a pleasure to read!

After reading THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, I desperately want a dog. Anyone who knows me is laughing right now because I am so not a dog as a pet type of person -- my son and I both are very allergic to dogs, and I'm kind of a freak about dog hair! Actually, I think I want an Enzo. Even though (or maybe because) he is a dog, he is definitely one of my favorite narrators in recent memory. Not only was he the most loyal and loving of companions to Denny and his family, but he was also extremely insightful into the basic nature of humans.

As I read this book, I was a little worried that I'd be let down or saddened by the ending of this book. I could pretty much see what was coming and knew that it was going to be a heart breaker, but I just enjoyed the book so much that I was concerned the ending wouldn't live up to the rest of the book. While I admit that I did shed some tears, I loved the last few chapters of this novel! Overall, I felt such joy and hope about life; and I have Enzo to thank for his wisdom and life-affirming messages.

I have never read any of Mr. Stein's previous novels, but I have to say that I'm now a huge fan. If you would have described this book to me -- a story told by a dog about his race car driving owner and his family, I would have never picked it up. But somehow Mr. Stein was able to tell this story in such a way that really captured my heart. I was so impressed with the way he incorporated symbolism into this novel. And I especially appreciated how he was able to relate the art race car driving (especially in the rain) to living life with its many ups and downs. Check out this interview with Mr. Stein for some additional insight into his writing of this novel. I loved his answer to the question "What answers can we all learn from Enzo?"

As far as I'm concerned, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is a perfect book for book clubs everywhere. The book is extremely readable (I read it in less than a day), and the story captures your attention as well as your heart in the first few pages. I would be absolutely shocked if all the members didn't adore this book and its messages. I love the questions in the reading guide and look forward to discussing this endearing novel with my friends this evening.

Check out the book trailer and you'll see why I desperately want an Enzo for my family. Is he not the most adorable thing?


15 comments:

Beth F said...

I have heard wonderful things about this book and I understand the audio is super as well. I have wanted to read this one for a while, but I never seem to get to it. I guess I'd better bump it up on the list. I bet I could get the audio from the library.

Karlie said...

My book club is doing this book for March too. Can't wait to see what everyone thinks of it. I love it so far!

bermudaonion said...

I really can't wait to read this one now! I am a dog lover, but I have to admit that our dog's hair drives me crazy - I vacuum all the time.

Jo-Jo said...

What a great review! I am hoping that my book club will choose this one next time we select books!

Vanessa said...

Loved it Julie - can't wait to discuss tonight.

Marie said...

Great review! This book has been on my wish list for some time. I think it's time I picked up a copy. It sounds wonderful.

Amy said...

Uh-oh..might have to hold off on this one...I already want a dog! Nice review!

Ti said...

What a great review. I had this on my list... it's still there but it's buried and I had forgotten about it. I need to move it up.

Cheryl said...

Ooh this sounds like a sad but good book. I am adding it to my wish list

S. Krishna said...

Another great review! You have me really wanting to read this book.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I'm going to have to break down and buy this one!

Neelu said...

great review! i finishe reading the book a day back and simply LOVED it...our bookclub is reading the same book and am eagerly waiting for our discussion next week :)

Neelu said...

plz check my review on http://needtofightwritersblock.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

A story that touches your soul. I am still reading this but have already experienced so many emotions through this book... love, anger, sadness, compassion, fear, joy and anticipation as Enzo tells his story. A client once told me that joy and pain can co-exist, this book represents this belief so eloquently. I have an Enzo in my life and maybe he once was a dog. Who knows?

Alexis Thornton said...

We just read this in my book club- great book!