The Art of Racing in the Rain – Book Review

artofracingI’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human. – from The Art of Racing in the Rain, page 3 –

Enzo is a dog – but he is not just any dog. Enzo is a philosopher and an observer of humans…he is a dog with the soul of a man. He lives with Denny Swift, a semi-professional race car driver, and Denny’s beautiful wife Eve and daughter Zoe. Enzo’s story begins at the end, and then rewinds to the beginning and works forward again. It is a simple story, really…the story of a family seen through the eyes of their dog; but Enzo’s insight into the human condition is what turns this simple story into something special. Like his owner Denny, Enzo loves car racing and he takes what he learns from the sport (through Denny) and uses it as a metaphor for living one’s life.

This is what Denny says. He says racing is doing. It is being a part of the moment, and being aware of nothing else but that moment. Reflection must come at a later time. – from The Art of Racing in the Rain, page 14 –

I must admit, I was very reluctant to read this book – not because I didn’t think it would be a great read (I heard Garth Stein speak last year at the San Jose Book Club Expo and immediately bought The Art of Racing in the Rain afterwards); but because I knew it would make me cry. And it did. Enzo is a wonderful character and his view of life, and ultimately of death, is tender and moving. Stein makes the reader embrace his characters. For me, it was easy to believe that a dog could think and feel as Enzo did…and so I internalized his story and it became real for me. Despite my tears, Enzo’s story is not all tragedy and sadness. There is joy, exhilaration and hope in the novel as well. There are many messages embedded in The Art of Racing in the Rain, but one of these seemed the most important: we are what we manifest.

Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves. – from The Art of Racing in the Rain, page 43 –

As Denny and his family face challenges and tragedy, this concept (‘that which we manifest is before us‘) becomes a recurrent theme. Another recurrent theme is facing our darkest fears in order to overcome them. For Enzo, it is a stuffed zebra who embodies evil intent…and now I know why Garth Stein inscribed my book: “For Wendy, Beware the zebra!

There are many beautiful passages in Stein’s novel. His writing is graceful and insightful. Enzo’s ruminations on life, on what makes a good human, and the state of our souls upon death…are simple, tender and thoughtful.

Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. – from The Art of Racing in the Rain, page 101 –

We could learn a lot by listening to our dogs, perhaps.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautiful novel on many levels. Readers who love animals will certainly be drawn to Enzo. This is a novel about family, love, loyalty and spirituality. It is about overcoming obstacles and moving forward through tragedy. But mostly it is about our connection to others – whether they be beast or human. Those readers who have recently lost a beloved pet will find this a tough read at times, but it is worth the journey.

Highly recommended.


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    • Jeane on November 5, 2009 at 06:51

    I really do want to read this one. I feel like I’ll be the last person to do so!

    • Shona on November 5, 2009 at 08:19

    I know its difficult to read some books knowing that the subject can touch our hearts. Your review tells me how good this book is and I am sure I am going to read it soon.

    • kailana on November 5, 2009 at 08:47

    I really enjoyed this book! I am glad you did, too!

    • Kay on November 5, 2009 at 09:24

    Beautiful review! I will definitely have to read this now!

    • Diane on November 5, 2009 at 09:45

    I so loved the audio version of this book. Enzo still speaks to me. Glad you enjoyed it as well (how could any animal lover not like it?) LOL

    • Kathy on November 5, 2009 at 10:41

    You summed up my feelings perfectly. We feel certain our dog has thoughts and emotions, so Enzo was very believable to me.

    • Pam on November 5, 2009 at 14:25

    I wasn’t really impressed with this one. I only made it about halfway through before giving up. I do need to try it again, maybe when I’m in a different place in my life as everyone I know seems to have enjoyed it.

    • Staci on November 5, 2009 at 17:12

    Beautiful review of this book. I have been wanting to read this one forever!!! Now I need to get it into gear so that I can spend some time with Enzo!

    • Lisa on November 5, 2009 at 19:23

    I’m not a “dog person.” It’s not that I don’t like dogs, it’s just that I’m not the kind of person that thinks of them as, well, people with fur and four legs. But I loved this book. And even though I never completely forgot that Enzo was a dog (Stein makes sure you don’t), I really began to think of him as every bit an equal. This book stayed with me long after I finished it.

  1. This sounds really good! I almost started crying just reading your review…that doesn’t bode well for my reading the book! I just started following your blog. I followed the link from your Novel Challenge blog. I love your dogs!

    Anyway, I have an award for your Challenge blog here:

    • Teddy on November 5, 2009 at 21:01

    I knew that you would love this book! I’m so glad I wasn’t wrong. I read it quite awhile ago but Enzo has stuck with me.

    • Wendy on November 6, 2009 at 08:22

    Jeane: I don’t think you’ll be the last to read it 🙂 It is a really good book…hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Shona: Sometimes the best books are the ones that are the most difficult to read. I hope you’ll enjoy this book.

    Kailana: Thanks! I think there are a lot of readers out there who feel as we do.

    Kay: Thank you! Will look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Diane: I think being an animal lover definitely makes this book even better. I bet the audio was wonderful!

    Kathy: Of course they have thoughts and emotions!! *smiles* Glad you felt as I did!

    Pam: I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you. I know some readers were put off with the racing language…although I thought it worked as metaphor for life.

    Staci: My bet is you will love spending time with Enzo!

    Lisa: I think it says a lot about Stein’s writing that this book appealed to someone like yourself who is not a dog person…and you’re right, I never forgot a dog was narrating, but he felt like an equal to the humans he was sharing his life with.

    Michelle: Thanks for following my blog! Always glad to have another animal lover reading along with me 🙂 I bet you’ll love this book – but have tissues on hand. Thank you so much for the award!

    Teddy: I’d forgotten you’d already read the book…no great surprise that we both loved it, eh?

  2. I put off reading this one for a while because I too knew there would be tears involved. There were moments when I would be reading and then look at my dogs and think “yes, I believe it”. The zebra scene finally explained why I find so many chewed up off limits articles scattered around the house. Lovely review!

    • trish on November 6, 2009 at 15:50

    I’m so glad you loved this book! I’m sure it was hard for you to read. The passages you quoted were ones I loved too. I hope you get to meet the author one day! He’s quite the cutie! 😉

    • Wendy on November 9, 2009 at 08:26

    Christine: LOL re: the zebra scene! I know what you mean about viewing your dogs differently as you were reading.

    Trish: I DID meet him…in San Jose with you!!! *laughing* And yes…quite, um, attractive!!!

    • Jenners on November 9, 2009 at 08:36

    I’m so glad I already have this waiting to be read. Every blogger who has reviewed it has just loved it to pieces.

  3. I’ve been avoiding this book because I knew it would make me cry as well. Your review has made me want to pick it up!

  4. What did you think about the last chapter and who the narrator was? I had a hard time with that section.

    • Wendy on November 20, 2009 at 08:33

    Jenners: *nods* It does seem to be getting far more positive reviews than negative!

    Swapna: It will definitely make you cry – but its worth it 🙂

    Serena: I liked the ending! To me it represented some hope (although I don’t believe in reincarnation)…I always think that someday I’ll get to see Caribou again (although not on this earth but in Heaven!)

    • Deepti on December 26, 2009 at 13:13

    hi, the book touches you in a way hard to describe..enzo is adorable..just bought the book online from a1books…will def be my favourite always

    • Wendy on December 28, 2009 at 09:41

    Deepti: Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the book! It is very touching, isn’t it?

    • Emmie on May 17, 2010 at 18:24

    this book was told from the perspective of a DOG and that really caught my eye. i’m so happy that i read this book!

    • Wendy on May 31, 2010 at 07:38

    Emmie: It is an unusual POV, but it really works, doesn’t it?

    • Marlen Nieuwoudt on January 3, 2012 at 23:17

    I’ve just finished reading the book. Which to me, was the best book I’ve ever read in my 38 years. I’ve always believed that my dogs listen to me, and that they understand, and now, I know that they do! A definite must read!

    • Michaela on May 16, 2012 at 10:55

    I just finished this book and loved it. It pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down once I started.

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