Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein


My initial thought was "someone should have warned me". Here I was, doing my daily exercising on the elliptical machine, finishing this book and SOBBING. Like ugly, red-faced, nose-running, uncontrollable sobbing. Still, I really have only myself to blame. There is a dog head on the cover, so I suppose crying is a given for me. I lost my yellow lab almost six years ago, and there isn't a day I don't miss her. So the book could be about dogs romping happily in a field of flowers, and I would still cry.

The book is both completely predictable, and highly unique. It is unique because the story is narrated by an elderly dog, Enzo. Enzo is a very bright, un-doglike dog, who has intelligent thoughts and complex reasoning. He has learned much about life as an active member of a family of three (Denny, Eve and their daughter Zoe), and from watching the television while everyone is away during the day. It is through Enzo's eyes that we experience this family's tragedy.

The book is predictable in plot. Eve discovers she has brain cancer, and the family is ripped apart. Denny must earn a living (full-time employee of an exotic auto repair shop, part-time race car driver), so while Eve is in the hospital, Zoe spends time with Eve's parents, who happen to be spiteful and mean-spirited. Bad things happen, and you can see them coming a mile away. There are so many bad things that happen, it made me uncomfortable. But Enzo believes in karma, which, in predictable novels, usually means the playing field will eventually be leveled and there will be rays of hope shine through at the end. And there was.

Throughout the book, there are lots of details provided about race car driving, and analogies made between racing and life. I'm not a huge fan of racing, so I was a bit ambivalent about these sections. It didn't necessarily take away from the book, but for me didn't add anything either. The one scene that will never leave my mind, however, is when Denny takes Enzo on a ride in a race car on a track. He straps the dog in, and away they go, Enzo having the time of his life, barking twice (which means "faster") throughout the ride. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I know, I'm a sap.

Some might find the anthropomorphizing in this book way over the top, and it is. I'd like to think that dogs can understand everything we say, and have favorite movie stars, and are interested in what happens to dogs when they die in Mongolia, but I'm kidding myself. I took it all in fun though. In this book, it works so well. One can only fall in love with Enzo's innocence, his loyalty, his sense of humor and this outlook on life. And boy does it make me want a dog.

Thanks go to James @ Ready When You Are, C.B. (and to Dakota for picking my name in the giveaway!) for sending me this book!

4 out of 5 stars




32 comments:

Harvee said...

Nice review. I lost a dog and that made me sob. If the book ends with Enzo dying, then I probably wouldn't read it! Though the idea of life from the dog's point of view is intriguing.

JoAnn said...

This book is on my list... will keep your warning in mind. Thanks!

Susan said...

Animal stories usually make me weep, too. This one sounds interesting. Have you read the Jon Katz books? Especially A Good Dog? I was finishing it in the car when we were traviling and was sobbing, to hubby's consternation. He asked me why I would want to read a book that makes me cry. I really didn't have an answere, but you know, don't you.

Susan said...

Traveling, of course, not traviling.

Susan said...

Good grief! Misspelled answer, too!

Julie P. said...

Great review. For some reason, this book just works. Although I'm with you -- I cried like a baby (and I'm not even a dog person.)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm afraid I have to avoid dog books unless I have a guarantee that the dog is still alive at the end of the book!

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book and I totally think my dog understands everything I say and has a favorite movie star! Don't even think of bursting my bubble!

Molly said...

Wonderful review, Sandy!

I thought the author captured the voice of Enzo perfectly! And while I am not a race car fan, I must admit that those sections made me appreciate the sport a bit more.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I find it very interesting to read so many comments from people who refuse to read the book if they think the dog might die - I wonder if feel the same way about people in books?

This book has been on my radar for a while. I'm keeping an eye out for it and hope I find a copy one day.

Serena said...

I loved this book, though the end is sad, but I felt prepared for the ending.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

This book has been around for quite a while and do you know until I read your review, I never knew what it was about?

I'd probably cry, too, being the big dog-lover that I am.....

stacybuckeye said...

I only read your first paragraph, but that is why I know I could not handle this book, no matter how many good reviews I read :)

The Bumbles said...

My brother named his cat Enzo - after Enzo Ferrari. He's a huge F-1 racing fan. He'd probably get a kick out of this book - since he likes Labs too (but then again, who doesn't?).

P.S. Our kitty Lucy's favorite actor is Johnny Depp because he is a bit devilish but extremely talented and cute - much like herself. And her brother Tedy's favorite actor is that guy who plays Hugo on Lost - big and burly but incredibly sweet and expressive - just like Tedy. Hey - give me a break - at least I don't have blogs for them!

Jeane said...

I so want to read this book! I'll be sure to have a box of tissues handy.

Ti said...

When I read this book, I thought it was okay but then when I got to the ending... Stein really nailed the ending, it left me quite sad and thoughtful.

Iliana said...

Great review, Sandy! I love dogs but I admit I have a hard time reading books where dogs, or any animal for that matter, are the narrators. Maybe it's leftover nightmares of Animal Farm in high school! haha...

Alyce said...

The scene with Enzo riding around the track was my favorite too! I also felt like there were too many bad things happening and actually almost gave up on reading the book because I was so stressed out from the negative things. Then I talked to someone who had already read it and they told me that it got better at the end, so I finished the book and I'm glad I did.

Kathleen said...

This books sounds so good and yet I don't know if I can bring myself to read it. I will be crying crocodile tears for sure. I have a dog named Bentley and the thought of anything bad happening to him makes me go nuts...and this from me who was never a real animal lover until recently!

Florinda said...

I LOVED Enzo, but I'd have to say I just LIKED the book. As you noted, a lot of the story was predictable (and a bit melodramatic, I thought), but it mostly worked. Since I'm married to a car nerd, I actually liked the racing stuff - and when I got the car nerd to read it himself, he liked it too :-).

I'm glad I read this a few months ago, though. Since I just lost my own dog, this would NOT be the time.

Melody said...

Great review, Sandy!
I can totally understand the pain. My husband had a shih tzu when he was a child and it had been with the family for years. He died last year due to old age. I think one reason why I don't want to keep a pet (at least for now) is because I don't know how to deal with the loss.

Jenners said...

When I read this later this year, I'll keep the tissues handy.

softdrink said...

I was reading the end of this book the night Obama won the election. I was crying tears of happiness and sadness...I was a mess.

Lisa said...

I think you and I liked this book about equally. I didn't care much for the racing parts, either, although I understood that they served a purpose. Also, I did find a lot of the book predictable. But oh how it tugged at my heart strings anyway!

Alice Teh said...

I'm glad you reviewed this, Sandy! I have this in my TBR and wanted to read it very soon.

caite said...

I WILL NOT read any more sad dog books! NO!

S. Krishna said...

I really need to read this one, I've heard such great things about it. Thanks for the review!

Zibilee said...

I've heard great things about this book, but I know it would definitely make me cry too...maybe that's why I have shied away from it. Great review, and I am really glad you liked the book so much!

Matt said...

being a dog lover and owner, I'm completely biased about this book, which is narrated by a dog. I wish my dog would talk to me and convey his thoughts! I cannot wait until the movie comes out! :)

Dar said...

I haven't read this because I'm not crazy about car racing either. Not sure I would be able to read about losing a dog either. My puppy hasn't been feeling well lately again so this is a book I will still steer away from even though I've heard from many it's good.

heidenkind said...

Girl, it's got a dog on the cover. You gotta know that's not going to end well.

Anna said...

I won this book during BBAW, and I still haven't been able to read it because I know I'll just cry my eyes out. Some day I'll be braver.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric