Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

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The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a truly lyrical, beautiful book. It tells the story of a family — of love and loss and battle — through the eyes of the loyal family dog.

Denny is the protagonist, but his story is related through Enzo, his terrier/ lab. Through Enzo’s eyes, we see Denny fall in love, become a father, lose his wife, and fight a protracted custody battle with his wealthy in-laws. We watch Denny deal with the grief of loss and the terror of false accusation while fighting for his daughter. Through Enzo, we stand witness to Denny’s exhaustion, depression, and determination.

Enzo’s voice is clearly doggish — adoring of his master and accepting that Denny is the arbiter of human knowledge — but it also has a distinctly human quality to it, reflecting the person Enzo so wants to be, and believes he will become in his next life. There’s a pretty hilarious moment where Enzo opines that the government is behind the oppression and de-thumbing (removal of dew claws, which is, apparently, a thing people do to dogs), citing Denny’s description of the anti-progressive White House as justification for his belief.

While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I particularly enjoyed the details of Enzo’s internal dog life — the way Enzo feels about being left home alone, how he thinks in smells, his pleasure in his master’s company. There’s one scene where Enzo is punished, and he describes asking for forgiveness — and I could see it, so clearly, all at once — both the human side and the way the dog must feel. I was so impressed at how the author presented Enzo in such a perfect blend of doggish patience and human awareness — how Enzo described trying to communicate his support and love through his eyes and gestures, and how frustrated Enzo felt at his inability to speak. In another scene, Enzo describes where his fear of vets comes from, and my heart just ached at the pain and horror of it.

I highly recommend this book to all readers. It is one of the best I have read in recent years. I’m still reeling from the impact of it — I started and finished it this morning in about 3 hours. It’s a really good book. I couldn’t put it down. I actually got some kidney bean juice on my Nook, because I was reading it while preparing chili in the slow-cooker, which maybe wasn’t the best idea, and I’d recommend others put down their e-readers when cooking and reading. Just fyi.

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