The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

the art of racing in the rain

Enzo, the narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain insists that man’s closest relative is not the chimpanzee, but is, in fact, the dog.  Witness his logic:

“Case-in-Point #1:  The Dew Claw

It is my opinion that the so-called dew claw, which is often snipped off a dog’s foreleg at an early age, is actually evidence of a preemergent thumb.  Further, I believe that men have systematically bred the thumb out of certain lines of dog through an elaborate process called ‘selective breeding,’ simply in order to prevent dogs from evolving into dexterous, and therefore ‘dangerous’ mammals.

I also believe that man’s continued domestication (if you care to use that silly euphemism) of dogs is motivated by fear:  fear that dogs, left to evolve on their own, would, in fact, develop thumbs and smaller tongues, and therefore would be superior to men, who are slow and cumbersome, standing erect as they do.  This is why dogs must live under the constant supervision of people, and are immediately put to death when found living on their own.

Case-in-Point #2:  The Werewolf

The full moon rises.  The fog clings to the lowest branches of the spruce trees.  The man steps out of the darkest corner of the forest and finds himself transformed into…A monkey?  I think not.”

Enzo’s compelling logic is made all the more convincing by the fact that he is, himself, a dog.

Enzo is different from most other dogs.  A philosopher and psychologist, he possesses a nearly-human soul.  Enzo has learned a lot about being human from his owner, Denny, and from the hours spent watching television while home alone.  Denny has taught him the thrill and challenges of pursuing a career as a professional racecar driver and the parallels of driving to navigating through life.  From television, Enzo has learned that his favorite actor is Steve McQueen and that Mongolians believe that when dogs die they return as men…but not all dogs, only those that are ready.  Enzo knows that he is ready.  On the eve of his death Enzo reflects upon his life with Denny and the rest of his human family; the unexpected loss of Denny’s wife, Eve, and the lengthy custody battle for his daughter, Zoe, waged between Denny and Zoe’s maternal grandparents.

Unable to speak in human words, Enzo has become an exceptional listener and in this way is able to learn more about people during his short lifetime than most humans ever do.  It’s easy to forget that the narrator is a dog until something unmistakebly canine comes through in his thoughts or behavior.  When that happens it’s almost always humorous and charming, a result of Enzo’s animal innocence.  After reading this book it may be difficult not to look at your own canine pal and think “I wonder….”

This is one of the few books that I would universally recommend.  It’s at times heart-wrenching, but very funny and ultimately uplifting.  As it turns out, you can learn a lot about being human from a dog.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a New York Times Bestseller and is Garth Stein’s third novel.

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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