The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein


Reviewed by Becky Benoit

It’s not very often that I read a book I instantly fall in love with; a book that’s so compelling, I want to tell everybody I know to read it right now. Such a book comes along very rarely, like a Picasso at a garage sale. And when you find one, the discovery is more satisfying because of its rarity.

This book was definitely just such a Picasso. Browsing at the airport, I picked up another book, only to be sent back to the rack by the helpful salesperson. That particular rack of books was on sale, 2 for $22, so another book would cost me only $5. Never one to turn down a bargain, I gamely hunted through the titles, without luck. I’d read most of them, and as for the ones I hadn’t read, there was generally a reason for that.

As time ticked away and the line for security grew ever longer, I threw caution to the winds and grabbed this book. I’ll admit, I bought it largely because of the cover, which features an adorable mutt wearing racing goggles, with a cape flying out behind him Superman-style.

Once I’d paid and reviewed the back, though, my heart sank. A story told from the perspective of a dog? Oh no. I’ve read a few of those, and by and large, they’re painful. And a dog that loves racecar driving? If there’s one thing I despise in the world, it’s car racing. If I want to see a bunch of cars drive around in circles, wrestling for a spot in the front of the pack, I’ll park myself outside a shopping mall on a busy evening instead and watch frantic drivers vie for the closest parking space.

I’ll be the first to admit it – I judged a book by its cover, and I was dead wrong. This book was easily the best book I’ve read all year. By page 5, I was hooked. Two chapters in, and I couldn’t put it down. When my husband huffed at me for the third time, “Are you going to turn off that light any time before dawn?” I knew I was in for it. So I made myself a cup of tea, settled into my favourite armchair and dug in.  It was well worth it.

Enzo is a loyal dog at the end of his life. He knows it, but he’s not afraid, because thanks to a documentary he once saw about Mongolia, he’s convinced that he is going to be reincarnated into a person. He’s ready for it, but at the same time, he’s worried too, nervous about leaving behind his family, in particular his devoted owner, Denny Swift.

Denny and Enzo have been through much together. As Enzo prepares for the end, he reflects on his life with the Swift family, and all he has learned about life and love. Denny, a semi-professional racecar driver who does oil changes to stay afloat when he’s not on the track, has taught Enzo everything he knows about the philosophies behind racecar driving, philosophies which are as applicable to life and humanity as they are to drivers on the track.

When Denny met Eve, who would eventually become his wife, Enzo finds it difficult to accept her. After all, she’s an obvious rival for Denny’s affection. But eventually, the three settle into the comfortable routines of a family, soon joined by baby Zoe.GarthStein3

Everything changes when Eve gets sick. Enzo is the first to notice the strange new odour about Eve, but of course, he has no way to warn her. When Eve is diagnosed with brain cancer, the family is thrown into chaos. Eve’s overbearing parents insist that she live with them during her treatment, and soon demand that Zoe live there also, to allow the little girl to spend as much time as possible with her dying mother.

Denny believes that Eve’s impending death is the worst thing that will ever happen to him. But when Eve’s parents try to take Denny’s most precious possession – his child – he and Enzo are plunged into the fight of their lives, the outcome of which is far from clear. Enzo can only offer his staunch and silent presence to

Enzo’s character is decidedly unlike that of your typical dog. He’s a philosopher at heart, waxing poetic about his favourite racecar drivers, movies about racing, and movie stars who have played racecar drivers (Enzo watches a lot of TV. He also spends a lot of time thinking about his frustrating lack of opposable thumbs).  He’s also darkly hilarious, with a sarcastic wit that had me laughing out loud.Denny, living by the mantra that “to finish first, first you must finish.”

This book has all those elements that make a classic – characters that are human and fallible enough to relate to (never mind that one of those characters is a dog – at some point, you either stop thinking of Enzo as a dog, or you start wishing you were more like a dog), a plotline full of drama, emotional pitfalls and personal triumphs, and life lessons that you want to jot down, just so you can remember them later.

Check this one out – you won’t be disappointed!


5 teacups