The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

It’s easy to love this book, but hard to find a place to start explaining it.  Anybody who has had a best friend with four legs and a wagging tail will understand immediately.  The Art of Racing in the Rain is a story of a race car driver, as told by his best friend and dog, Enzo.  The story moves through highs and lows but they stick together through it all.

Enzo is a lab mix, who dreams of the day his soul will be reborn as a human.  He has so much to say, but a long flat tongue gets in the way so he uses gestures to the best of his ability. His ‘master’ is Denny, and young racer who has dreams of becoming a professional driver.  After a couple of years as bachelors, the pair meets Eve, a woman who Denny eventually marries, and they have a daughter, Zoe.  Together, the family enjoys the time they spend together. After six years of marriage, Eve is diagnosed with a brain tumor, a terminal diagnosis.  Her parents are helpful and watch Zoe a lot, and offer to bring Eve into their home for hospice style care.  Denny is reluctant but knows they have the time and money to help her and so he supported Eve’s decision to stay with them.  Soon, they also point out that Zoe should spend more time with her mom before she loses her, and again, Denny reluctantly agrees.  Eve eventually passed and Denny was heartbroken.  To make matters worse, Eve’s parents present Denny with a custody suit for Zoe.  Denny was confident that there didn’t seem to be much of a case, but a ghost in Denny’s past came in and the cards were soon stacked against him.  He had to spend his life savings, and go into debt to fight for his daughter.

The story alone is gripping, but through the perspective of a loyal dog-friend adds even more to it.  Denny was a racer, and together, Denny and Enzo spent a lot of time watching race videos, analyzing them and learning how Denny could become a better driver.  Enzo loved it!  All throughout the book, Enzo was relating race mantras to the readers.

“The car goes where the eyes go.”

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you’re afraid to lose.”

“It makes one realize that the physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak; a true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible.”

“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.”

I can’t really say I’m much of a race fan, but this book was much more than that.  As I finished, I sat the book down and thought of all of my dog friends I grew up with with fond memories, and imagined them running through endless fields with their tails wagging. It has been one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

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