05 September 2008

Book Review: THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN


The Starbucks that my wife (and now I) work at has a montlhy newsletter, and one month I read the featured book and the manager asked me to write a review of the book, and I oblidged.


THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
a Book Review
I had no plans of becoming involved. I had only come to Starbucks to enjoy some coffee and maybe read the paper, but instead I found something else. I asked my wife (Gina – an employee of the Seymour, TN store) if I could read the books on the shelves and just put them back. She told me to hold on a minute and withdrew to the back of the store, and emerged seconds later with a different book. The book, hardback and blue with a picture of dog on the cover, was the “partner copy” of the next book Starbucks would carry. So I returned to the corner with the comfy chairs, sipped my bold with a shot of espresso, and began to read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I became involved.

The narrator and chief character in the book is Enzo, a dog. Enzo feels his time to become a man has come. He saw a show on TV about how Mongolians believe good dogs become men in the next life, so they bury them at the top of a hill to enjoy the wild before they enter their human body. Enzo loves TV and his favorite channel is the SPEED Channel as his master, Denny, races semiprofessionally, and has done so ever since Enzo has known him.

Garth Stein has created an immediately lovable character. Enzo represents an extraordinary level of contemplation for a dog, which he attributes to his education watching TV while Denny and his family work and go to school. Choosing to convey this story through the perspective of the dog expresses superb writing on Stein’s part, which allows the reader to experience a very human story from a very unhuman perspective. Stein begins the story on the eve of the dog’s death, and the reader joins Enzo as he takes a look back over his life. He remembers the farm where he spent some of his childhood; he remembers the passion and sacrifice it took for his master Denny to succeed professionally; he remembers the pain the whole family felt at the devastating loss of Denny’s wife Eve; he remembers the court drama between Denny and Eve’s parents over the custody of Denny’s daughter Zoe; Enzo has seen a lot. In the end Enzo has valiantly helped the Swift family through their trials and longs to see Denny become the champion he is, and all of this with Zoe at his side.

Garth Stein has fashioned a beautiful story that will break your heart and lift your spirit, and he does all of this through Enzo’s eyes. He brilliantly intertwines racing principles with the story and then applies them to the story, the chief of which says, “That which you manifest is before you.” If you read much, or if you don’t read much, you must read this book. It will make you laugh out loud as Enzo gives reasons why humans evolved from dogs and not monkeys, and it will make you cry as the family experiences the terrible loss of a wife and mother. Again, whether or not you read, you should read this book. I give it two paws way up.

1 comment:

SmallWorld at Home said...

Sam: I read your comment on my blog a little too early this morning. I thought it said "My Grandma is in the rain." I thought about that for a while as I poured my coffee. Then after I had some coffee I read it again. That would be God, not Grandma. Coffee is a very good thing.