Review – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

the art of racing in the rainThis was one of my favorite reads this year.  Not only because I love dogs (which I do) but also because it was a surprise gift from my husband.

Enzo is a dog.  He was born on a farm to a mean old rancher.  His mom was a “heavy bitch of a lab” but he wasn’t sure about his dad.  The rancher would tell prospective buyers that he was half shepherd or poodle so that people would think he would be smart.  Enzo believed his dad was a tough terrier that walked the farm.

So begins Enzo’s story.  The entire book is written from his perspective.  His early life with Denny (a race car driver), the addition of a wife a child and a lot of time spent talking about the circle of life.

I tend to pick books that are relaxing or that will make me laugh.  So I was more than a little nervous when I realized that this was probably going to include the death of a dog.  (Guys, that’s not a spoiler, it’s pop fiction.  The dog always dies (see: Marley and Me).)  However, I was happily surprised when I spent most pages laughing at something Enzo said or a picture that he painted.  You see, he wants to be a man and he feels that only two things are holding him back – lack of opposable thumbs and a tongue that is too large and unwieldy to form words.  And, don’t get him started on why it’s ridiculous that monkeys are considered closest to man in the evolutionary chain.  Enzo knows all of this because he watches too much television including lots of documentaries on the Discovery Channel.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is close to a 5-star read for me.  Unfortunately, I did have to reduce by one because of a pet peeve.  I love dogs and this could’ve been a spectacular book.  But…there are a couple of plot points that are unnecessary.  They were added to create conflict and evoke an emotion.  That’s the writer’s job.  Fine.  But, don’t be manipulative.  And there were a few times that I felt yucky because I knew that a choice was made to bring out a feeling that was unnecessary and disconcerting.  The story would have been better served by keeping it more realistic and not having people act so horrible that you can’t stay invested.

Overall this is a truly wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

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