The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Nine stars

Garth Stein presents the reader with an interesting tale that spans years, both human and dog, to tell of a journey that will touch the heart and funny bone in ways not previously imaginable. Meet Enzo, who begins the story by announcing that he will die. This is nothing shocking as everyone’s life must end at some point. The reader ought not bat an eye, even when it turns out Enzo is a dog, for all creatures succumb to an eventual end. What follows is a story in which Enzo pulls the reader through a lifetime a memories and thoughts from his own perspective. With Denny Swift, Enzo’s owner, playing a central role, Enzo dashes through a narrative that commences on a farm and follows at a pace that only a dog could understand. Denny is a a race car driver of some renown, speeding along the tracks at breakneck speeds, something with which Enzo has some experience as he watches many a race on the television during his lonely days at home. When Eve enters the scene, Enzo must learn to share Denny’s affections, though he feels a closeness that no human could overtake when it comes to the master-dog relationship. From there, Zoë is born and Enzo struggles to come to terms with another new life in his surroundings, though his protective side permits him to share all the love the Swift household has to offer. At this point, the story spins in directions more dramatic than humourous, as Enzo faces such struggles as illness, custodial arrangements, and legal battles, all of which pull himself and Denny to the brink of collapse. However, nothing is more important than the relationship Enzo fostered with Denny all those years ago. Just as every race has its beginning, there is a checked flag to end the laps and call the drivers home. Enzo is not exempt from this and has to come to terms with his own mortality, though he is not ready to give it all up. He seeks to ease his way while protecting Denny from the hardship of loss, having seen so much with his master over the years. Stein offers a powerful story that touches the hearts of pet owners and mere reading enthusiasts alike with this exceptional piece.

Pitting an entire story from the perspective of a dog is a gamble that surely paid off for Stein when he wrote this. He is able to capture the reader and keep their attention for a few reasons, which resonated throughout the narrative. First and foremost, he mixes humour with serious issues to offer the reader an insight into the canine perspective and shows that it is more than just eat, sleep, repeat. Secondly, that the story was Enzo’s story without being Enzo’s Story proved highly effective. It offers the reader a look at everyday life and the struggles that others have without it being solely canine-centric. While I am sure there is a place for a story that depicts a dog’s slow struggle towards death, readers seeking that might want to flock to a book about an euphemistic cephalopod invasion of man’s best friend and an owner unable to cope with its reality. Thirdly, that Enzo can find his niche as a character in the aforementioned constant story and not as a sideline ‘third person’ or ‘omnipotent’ narrator allows the reader to feel that this story has complexities and that Enzo’s character is integral to the story’s progression. Yes, there is loss, struggle, and even death, but there is also life, vigour, and accomplishment peppered throughout these pages. Stein juggles these two emotional spheres so seamlessly that the reader does not realise the path down which they have travelled until the end, when it all comes together (and apart). For that, Stein deserves much credit. 

Kudos, Mr. Stein for this wonderful book. While I do not know how much was fiction, I applaud you for your creativity and you can rest assured, this book will come highly recommended to anyone I know.