Katie snuggled up with me in bed, Enzo nestled in her arms, and handed me a copy of Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain.
“You’ll like it. It’s written from the perspective of an old puppy named Enzo. Like this Enzo here.”
Like I had a choice as to whether or not I was going to read it. So, I started it. And got hooked.
For starters, if you can get a copy that’s been chewed on by a dog, it only enhances the aura of the experience. Seriously. It’s probably appropriate that the copy we had of The Art of Racing in the Rain was chewed on by Enzo’s rival, my sister-in-law’s dog, during Christmas.
I get giddy when I go back through the book now to confirm details while jotting down these review notes. I think I’m going to reread the book just to confirm the experience, once Enzo can see above my stack of unread books.
You should still read “The Art of Racing in the Rain” even though it will feel like you are the last one to have done so.
It’s symphonic and melodic, interweaving the buddy-buddy dynamic of Enzo and his partner-in-crime Denny through the ups and downs during their time together. Now, some would say Denny is the owner, but any dog owner knows that the title, “owner” is often given to the wrong end of such a relationship. As for the “Racing” part, it reflects the lessons learned as Denny struggles to break into the Formula One circuit with increasing family demands, as well as the struggles the family goes through. As for the “Racing in the Rain,” welcome to the biggest lesson and the metaphor. Go read it to learn more.
Reading this book will be like listening to that song everybody already loves and knows the words to, but that only means it’s worth the experience. Enjoy it. You’ll be able to envision which scenes make it into the Disney movie: which one is the villain scene, which is the point where the hero makes his move, and the ending will be how you imagine it.
Whoa. I was just joking about Disney making a move out of it.
2019 Update: Even crazier. Disney had the rights after Universal Pictures couldn’t get it going. Then it fell through at Disney, allowing 20th Century Fox to take a stab, which is how they’re the ones who finally filmed it. Then, Disney bought Fox, and now it’s the first 20th Century Fox movie released by Disney.
As for the ending, well, if you have dogs, have them nearby. You’ll want to snuggle with them – if you haven’t already wanted to snuggle with them throughout. Otherwise, a blanket or a stuff
ed animal would do. Just don’t snuggle with a stuffed toy zebra. Don’t do that to Enzo. Just. Don’t.
Bonus Tip: Do the math in the last chapter, then prepare for the tingly hot-chocolate-on-a-cold-winters-day warming to race through your body.
What I loved most about “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
Sure, Enzo. He’s the ideal puppy, even if he starts off in a puddle of his own doing. He’s a great storyteller. And an honest storyteller. He’ll admit when he wasn’t at an important moment. If only humans were so honest.
And sure, the idea of your beloved Mongolian belief of dogs reincarnating as people – as if they’d want to take the evolutionary step backwards – will give you the feels and provoke great thoughts. But, to me, my favorite part about this book was how writer Garth Stein humanized Formula 1 series auto racing. He might be the first person in history to make this exclusive all-you-need-is-one-hundred-million-dollars-and-a-twinkle-in-your-eye showcase into something tangible and seemingly attainable. I’m serious. That fact alone is worth the read. He made F1 Racing a loveable character. F1 became the story’s Zen master.
A bit more on Formula 1, the auto racing featured in “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
I’m a sportsaholic. It’s how I was raised. I know Formula 1 (aka F1) open wheel / open cart racing exists because if it’s SportsCenter, I’ve probably seen it. Also, I’m from the Indiana side of Chicago. There was at least 3 people in those contested lands who talked about the Indianapolis 500 and how IndyCar (the US open cart racing) was better than F1.
What made his choice for F1 unique is that F1 is probably the least watched of the major circuits in the US, predominantly because it’s European-based. “This here is NASCAR country,” stock car racing mostly made around counter-clockwise oval racing. NASCAR blew up because of the Earnhardts, Jeff Gordon – also (sort of) from Indiana (by way of the fact his family moved him to Indiana from California because he could legally race in Indiana at a very young age), tailgating…and the fact that NASCAR didn’t split into two factions in the 90s like IndyCar did.
While F1 wasn’t a part of the IndyCar split. In fact, they started setting up races in the US to (presumably) try and capitalize on the chink in IndyCar’s armor. But as IndyCar suffered, the whole open wheel circuit seemingly took a hit in the US. I can’t tell you how many times I hear NASCAR fans shout “Y’all drive go-karts around. They ain’t even real cars.”
Or, he just wrote about what he knew.
The fact that Stein highlighted the least popular of the racing circuits in the US a time when F1’s open cart style was still suffering a twinge of backlash, then made it accessible was a brave, bold choice. And he pulled it off admirably through the eyes of Enzo.
Gotta go walk Enzo now.
God, don’t tell Lily we spent this much time focused on a book about a dog named Enzo. She might never again let him share the big dog bed next to my farmer’s table.
Now, If I could only stop calling the book, “The Art of Dancing in the Rain,” my wife wouldn’t have to keep correcting me.
Did you read “The Art of Racing in the Rain?” How many times? If not, are you thinking about it? Lemmie know.
By the way, here are the book specs:
- Title : The Art of Racing in the Rain
- Writer: Garth Stein
- Publish Year: June 1st 2006
- Paperback Publisher: Harper Paperback
- Where to get a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain: Amazon.com, GarthStein.com, several stores still have it. Stop by and borrow our copy…