Garth Stein’s novel ‘The Art Of racing In The Rain’ is exactly as the majority of reviews here claim: funny, touching, sad, heart-warming, and thankfully brief. There isn’t much esle to say about the book: these are all reasons to recommend it. Any reader who feels this book may not be for them should reconsider as there is something here for everyone, and Stein’s easy going and free flowing style ensures that the pages flutter by quickly. For what may sound like a tough read: a dying dog relates his life to us, including the death of his master’s wife, the book is full of light moments, largely involving the antics of Enzo, our storyteller- the dog who wishes he was human.
Enzo has lived with his master Denny most of his life. As the story begins, Enzo has accepted that he is ready to die. Thanks too many hours and days watching TV though, he believes that his purpose in this body has been served and that his soul can move on to a new body, and a new life. He then describes his life and loves- watching TV alone while Denny is at work, and particularly watching car races with Denny. Denny is a struggling racer, an expert who needs a break in life, a chance to prove his racing ability. Through all of this Enzo has learnt a great deal about racing, and about human nature. He shares his thoughts on life and using metaphors from the race-track; he shares his thoughts on human nature with a wry humour and desperation from the futile inhabiting of a dog’s body.
Enzo’s life with Denny is as happy as it could possibly be. Then Denny meets and marries Eve. As expected, he doesn’t appreciate sharing Denny’s affections. He is however a dog, a good dog, and knows his place. Their family grows again with the birth of Zoe, who Enzo becomes infatuated with, and becomes protector of. The story takes a darker turn though, as Eve becomes sick, and the family starts to fall apart. Tragic though it may be, this event is necessary as 300 pages of witty dog observations would wear thin quickly. This gives the story a boost and helps the reader feel there is a purpose to it all. However, the following section of the book slows down with the involvement of Eve’s parents, and the accusations aimed at Denny. This I feel is the main negative aspect of the book. These events feel too dragged out when we want Denny to be happy. Along with the ending which feels almost dreamlike, and certain passages which shift from narrative to thought, the book isn’t perfect. There are enough funny moments and enough hope in the darkness to make this one of the best books of the year.