Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: "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 his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is place 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 plains 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."
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. 
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.*

Because this review is largely about dogs and their goodness...
 here are all of the dogs in my life. 
Featuring: Rufio, Tiger, Jack, Buck, Jack Sparrow, Rudy, and Indiana Jones.

Garth Stein is a New York Times and international bestselling author, as well as a PNBA Book Award winner. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a masterpiece of contemporary fiction. Through the perspective of a dog, Enzo, Stein brilliantly reveals the beauty and cruelty of human life, the love within true friendship, the trials of an ever-changing family, and the wisdom that lies within car racing. From the first page, we are introduced to Enzo's loving, humorous, clever, and loyal-to-a-fault personality. His enthusiastic spirit, as well as his undying love for life, racing, education through means of cable TV, and envy of those with opposable thumbs are captivating. 

Enzo, that handsome son-of-a-furry-gun, is also a wise soul, one we could all learn something from. Which is why I now present you with (drum roll please!) . . . 

The Amazing Enzo and His Words of Wisdom:
  • Enzo is a perfect example of companionship and hope. He tells us that he believes ". . . the center of our family could not be fractured by a chance occurrence, an accidental washing, an unexpected illness. . . However things might change around us, we would always be together," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 106). 
  • Enzo shows us humility and the art of being a champion. "Racers are often called selfish and egotistical. I myself have called race car drivers selfish; I was wrong. To be a champion, you must have no ego at all. You must not exist as a separate entity. You must give yourself over to the race. You are nothing if not for your team, your car, your shoes, your tires. Do not mistake confidence and self-awareness for egotism," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 314). 
  • Enzo, a brilliant dog, but dog nonetheless, is better at being a good human being than most of us human beings. "Here's why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another's conversations constantly. . . Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 102). 
  • Through his story, Enzo tell us that it's okay to lose, but we that have to try, even if we are scared of what could happen. "There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 277). 
  • Finally, Enzo shows us the joy in living--in taking charge of, and being the champion in, your own life. "That which you manifest is before you; we are the creators of our own destiny," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 43). 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," (The Art of Racing in the Rain, pg 65).

And because I like lists so much, here are a few crucial items you will need while reading The Art of Racing in the Rain:
  1. A full tissue box.
  2. Pen and paper--to take notes on the pure genius and wisdom that Enzo has given to us, mere humans.
  3. Your own furry friend to cry and cuddle with.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is by far the hardest book I have ever read, and will probably ever read. It is also, undoubtedly, one of the best books I have ever read. It is brilliant in it's unique perspective, through Enzo, of heartbreak, hope, love, and the exhilaration of racing and living. If only more humans were like dogs, were like Enzo. The world would be a far more pleasant place. A dog can teach you everything you need to know. This book may be heartbreaking to get through, but I promise you that every page is well worth it. The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of those books that will change you.



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