Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein


In Garth Stein’s new novel, the narrator is the family dog, named Enzo. Enzo, a shepherd-poodle-terrier cross, is old and death is approaching. He takes stock of his life and tells the story of his family.

He has spent years watching day-time TV – mostly documentaries & the weather channel so he knows about the world beyond his home in Seattle. His owner, Denny, is an aspiring race car driver & together they have watched hours of race footage. By listening very closely to his master he has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using patience, control & intelligence, all qualities needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

Deeply frustrated by the limitations imposed by being a dog (& an obsession with opposable thumbs) he takes to heart something he learned on TV.

“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in the next life. The his tale is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert places for as long as it would like.

I learned that from a program on the National Geographic channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.

I am ready.”

Bad things happen to good people in Enzo’s story – but it is told with humour, humanity & compassion.

Despite the themes it is not necessary to be either a dog lover or a fanatic about car racing to enjoy this book. I must admit to actively disliking car racing.

This book has been compared with “Charlotte’s web’ & “Of mice and men”, perhaps a little flattering, but nevertheless, an ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty and hope.

Reviewed by Julie.

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