THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein – “The greatest dog book ever!”February 11, 2010
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; X edition (June 9, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061537969
- ISBN-13: 978-0061537967
- Cost: $9.95
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
This is one of the best books I have read in years. If you love dogs, you will be hooked on page one. If you don’t, you will love and respect them by the time this novel is over. Even I who own four cringed a little when I read this was a tale told from a dog’s, perspective. But that is the genius of it. Sure there have been other one-note stories of dog love and loss, but what we realize quickly is that we, the readers, are viewing life like Enzo. We don’t have the words to express how we really feel. We don’t care about the medical causes or terms that describe human physical or psychological malfunctions. And we know our life on earth will end…
The Art of Racing in the Rain title refers to Enzo’s owner being a race car driver and the Zen of succeeding at that sport. That was a stretch for me, at first. But that’s why there’s a richness to this book that is too often missing in those that pander to our nostalgia and sentimentality. About a third of the way through the book I was counting pages—the drama of a wife dying of cancer had run its course—and then the story takes a startling turn that will keep you up all night. The dog perspective gives us a Hitchcock like inside knowledge of events that happened that he and we are unable to do anything about.
A secondary benefit of seeing the world through Enzo’s eyes is that there are things, like courtroom, the death scene (yes there is one) and some of the routine of Denny’s work that we can thankfully skip. A new writer puts things down as they occur (like in a diary) or as they occur to him or her. A good writer rearranges these with readers in mind—what will hook their interest, what is the major turning point, what scenes build up to that, what at the end would suggest some revelation beyond the plot’s resolution. But a great writer has some mechanism by which he can give and withhold bits of information from the audience. He plays them. They try to fill in what’s missing and, whether they are right or wrong, become active partners in the creative process. They become its writers.
It’s tempting to shamelessly waive racing symbols in reviewing The Art of Racing in the Rain. The book brings the crowd to its feet and the little twist at the end deserves a checkered flag. But more than this, Garth Stein proves himself a master storyteller. And from him we can learn what’s behind the magic of writing as much as be enthralled by the plight of this wonderful dog, his master and the man’s daughter. This novel wins a first place trophy.