The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a novel written from the point of view of a dog. If you’re thinking, “That sounds pretty cheesy,” that’s what I was thinking too. It’s also a novel about a can’t-seem-to-make-it racecar driver. If you’re thinking, “Wow I don’t care at all about racecar driving,” that what I was thinking too. But I still loved it, and I think you will too.
The book is an easy read even though the story is heart-wrenching and has some very sad moments. Overall, looking at the life of Denny the racecar driver through Enzo the dog’s eyes gives a unique perspective. Enzo is complex, and his depth doesn’t seem contrived (somehow) and is an interesting contrast to his still dog-like instincts and needs. The Art of Racing in the Rain made me think about dogs differently. Even though it was fiction, it gave me a new perspective on the value of their ability to connect emotionally.
The insights of a dog, and the creation of his sophisticated perspective, was my favorite part of the novel. If you love dogs, or have a dog, I expect this will be your favorite part too. He’s just such an interesting character, and so aware of his dog-ness and all the special abilities and inabilities that come along with it. He’s smart and observant and above being a dog in many ways, but then his instincts come through and take over in ways that can be tragic, brave, sad, or hilarious.
The underlying story, through Enzo’s eyes, was engrossing and sad. It’s heavy on the plot and not mired in details, which I enjoyed. Denny’s family life takes some heartbreaking twists and turns and is, in the end, a story of survival and perseverance. Adding the perspective of a young child and the dog’s observations of the child’s behavior added even more to the value of the book. I know a book is good when I find myself saddened or outraged on behalf of a character as if they were someone I knew, and that happened in this book with Denny.
One thing I didn’t really love was the inclusion of racing metaphors and examples all throughout the book. Enzo’s observations on racing and on races he’s watched (he loves watching TV) are peppered throughout the book and often used as metaphors. Sometimes they felt a little forced to me, but I think that’s mostly because it’s not a topic that interested me.
Overall I would recommend this book as a fast but engrossing read that helps broaden your perspective on the importance of emotional connection and support and the value of being there for the important people in life, even all you can do is listen. Or wag your tail.