Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

They laughed and then they moved on to discussing other options.  This happens to me often at my book club.  I'm the one who wants to read either the "depressing books" or the "weird books" or so it's said.  I got shot down when I suggested The Road and Left to Tell last year.  I suggested The Art of Racing in the Rain a few meetings back.  When I said I heard it was about the relationship between a dog and a race car driver from the dog's point of view you would have thought I grew a third head.  Yes, it happened.  My choice shot down again.  I couldn't blame them though.  I'm the one who suggested we try a classic (which ended up being A Tale of Two Cities) and I didn't even finish it.  Although the club eventually did come around and read Left to Tell, I didn't think they were going to agree to The Art of Racing in the Rain anytime soon so I got it from the library to read on my own.

I admit it---the premise is unexpected.  The narrator is a dog named Enzo who is approaching the end of his life.  You find out from Enzo in the first few pages that he's an old dog whose owner is named Denny.  Denny's wife Eve got sick and died, and you learn Denny's been through some hard times.  You learn all this up front.  Then you get to hear Enzo's story from the beginning.  A lot of the plot sounds like a clichéd Lifetime movie.  There's the wife's illness and coping with that.  There's an alleged crime and a custody battle. If the dog wasn't in this book it probably wouldn't have even made a book reviewer look twice.  But there is a dog in this book.

What makes this book special is Enzo's unique point of view.  He's a dog with feelings, preferences, and plans for the future.  He loves his family, he wants what's best for them, and he fights for it.  When humans disagree or can't understand each other, he sees the truth.  Despite Enzo talking about his desire to be reincarnated and be a man himself, I was reminded repeatedly while reading this book of the MIT commencement address given by NPR's Car Talk's Click and Clack back in 1999.  I saw it broadcast on television and the address at the time really made an impact on me.  They said to achieve nirvana you need to be unencumbered by the thought process.  According to the MIT newsletter, "Tom said that his theory, dubbed reverse incarnation, holds that instead of leading future lives as better and better people, good people will come back as a golden retriever, a cow, a worm and finally grass, getting happier in the process."  I think dogs really are happier.

In the end, this book is special.  It's unlike anything I've ever read or will likely read in the future.  It's a compelling read.  Enjoy!


chereemoore said...

I adored this book. My husband and I actually listened to the audio version on a road trip last year and we both fell in love with Enzo. The ending was sad and we didn't want it to end.

The Reader said...

I'm glad you reviewed this; it was suggested as a possible choice for our book club (and we shot it down) but maybe I'll give it another chance.

herdingcats said...

I got this book from the library and started reading it, but it was so full of foul language that I just returned it. It sounds like it might be a good story though.

Fairy Tale Mama said...

Hmmmm...I really don't remember any foul language, but I'm not as sensitive to that as most. :-)