The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel
By Garth Stein
2008 HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover, Luxe PB, and unabridged audiobook, HC 9780061537936, $23.95
The takeaway from this, my favorite book of the season, is to remember: Somewhere the Zebra is Dancing.
This book is deeply philosophical, wryly funny, and frighteningly poignant. But most of all, it’s a great read, and one you’ll want to share with everyone you know.
As I told the readers of my books blog, I really want you to meet my new friend Enzo.
For my readers, I was very careful to keep them in the dark about who Enzo was until they, too, could fall in love with him. For Enzo is an incredibly likable fellow. His philosophy is somewhat simple, but certain and profound.
We meet Enzo near the end of his life. He’s waiting desperately for his lifelong companion, Denny Swift, to return home. Why must he wait? Well, Enzo is a dog. But not just any dog.
Enzo is a dog with a human soul. He’s convinced of it, and you will be too, for Enzo has the insight and empathy, the compassion and love that we all would desire in a life partner.
As Enzo tells the story of his life and the lives of the family he’s raised by, he shares with us the wisdom he has acquired. As Denny’s companion, he’s learned, for example, that there’s more to racing than going fast. That that which you manifest is before you.
He has also learned a key truth from the excessive amounts of TV he has watched, including countless documentaries. A documentary on the dogs of Mongolia changes Enzo’s life. It seems that when a Mongolian dog reaches the end of his life, his owner whispers into his ear the hope that he will return as a man. Once Enzo accepts the concept of reincarnation, he knows he has been put on this earth to prepare.
Yes, it’s frustrating for Enzo to be unable to open doors (no opposable thumbs) or communicate in English (his tongue is just too floppy to form the syllables). But knowing his destiny, Enzo can’t wait to become human.
Stein says he was inspired to tell this story from Enzo’s point of view after hearing Billy Collins at a reading in Seattle. Collins’ poem, The Revenant, begins, "I am the dog you put to sleep...come back to tell you one simple thing: I never liked you—not one bit."
Stein, a former documentary filmmaker from Seattle, wrote two previous novels - How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets and Raven Stole the Moon, and a play, Brother Jones.