The novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein is a tale that takes you on an unforgettable journey through another kind of mind, through the eyes and nose of a dog. The novel features many plot twists, references to natural and supernatural, interesting characters and is set in Whidbey Island, United States. This story is about a dog, Enzo, who is different from other dogs; he is a philosopher and an observer of humans. The major themes that have been discussed thoroughly in this novel include, facing the dark fears, a non-human’s perspective of human and society, and being optimistic towards death and dying.
Firstly, one very important and recurrent theme that has been discussed in the book is facing our darkest fears in order to overcome them. For Enzo, it is a stuffed zebra that personifies evil intent. Also, in the book Don said, “there is no dishonor in losing the race, there is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.” The significance of this quote is that it makes an individual realize that one fails when the task is not begun. If an individual is afraid of failure and continues on this detrimental path, nothing would be accomplished. Hence conveying the message that facing your fear and giving everything a try is very important to succeed in life.
In addition, a dog, Enzo, who is aware of the fact that he is different from other dogs, narrates the story. Enzo is a philosopher with a virtually human soul, he has educated himself enough by watching television extensively, and by listening very attentively to the words of his master, Denny Swift, a race car driver. Enzo has always felt humanly. As it is quoted in the book “I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m … the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human”. (Garth Stein, 2008). This quote describes the significance of Enzo’s character in the story. It is a simple story of a family seen through the eyes of their dog, but Enzo’s insight into the human condition is what turns this simple story into something special.
Lastly, death and dying, a major plot, underlines the entirety of The Art of Racing in the Rain. Enzo, the narrator of this novel and a dog looking back on his life and collecting those moments again made the most significant impact. Enzo eventually dies but Enzo’s attitude towards death is very optimistic. While he has enjoyed his life as Denny’s friends, Enzo is nevertheless overjoyed at the prospect of reincarnation. Enzo looks forward to death because of what comes after death and not because he finds his present life to be boring. Enzo is old and his physical condition is just evil for Enzo but his wonderful character and view of life, and ultimately death, is tender and moving.
In conclusion, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautiful novel. The three most recurrent themes discussed in the novel include, facing the dark fears, a non-human’s perspective of individuals and society, and being optimistic towards death and dying. This is a novel about family, love, loyalty and spirituality. It is about overcoming obstacles and moving forward through tragedy. But mostly it is about one’s connection towards others, whether they are humans or non-humans.
In Garth Stein’s touching story, the appealing narrator is a dog named Enzo, who (of course) cannot communicate as he'd like to, by talking with his family. Instead, he pours his considerable heart and spirit into this book, sharing his experiences and reflections with readers. Although Enzo is frustrated with his limitations as a canine, he comforts himself with the fact that, according to a documentary he watched about Mongolia (Enzo is a dedicated television viewer), he will be reincarnated as a human. And he knows a lot about being a human after watching his master Denny Swift, who is a hero to him.
At the beginning of the book, Enzo is just barely clinging to life, so he spends time reflecting upon his past. As Denny, who is a race car driver, has told him, drivers cannot contemplate their moves while they make them. Racing is like living; you can only do it and then remember it at a later date. For Enzo, in these last days he immerses himself in memories.
His reminiscences begin with the day Denny chose him out of a heap of puppies, taking him from a country farm to an apartment in Seattle. Although Enzo doesn't enjoy living there, he adores Denny and thus looks on this as a good life. He later develops a fondness for Eve, "the interloper," who Denny falls in love with and marries. He stands in literally for Denny on the day that his daughter, Zoë, is born. Denny is off racing in Daytona, Florida while Enzo is at the new mother's side.
For Denny, the joyous day of Zoë's birth is overshadowed as his racing career takes a beating. After a year of obtaining sponsorships in order to enter the race, he loses this hard-won opportunity to shine when a driver on his team has an accident. Denny returns to his day job as a customer service representative at a luxury auto shop.
Shortly after giving birth, Eve asks Enzo to promise to protect the little girl, and the dog's feelings of commitment to his family are intensified. Enzo's role in the family becomes that of caretaker and watchdog. He takes his role of protecting his loved humans seriously --- and faithfully not only watches over them, but also manipulates their lives, often in humorous ways, to ensure that they are taken care of. This loyalty will be needed as their lives are about to unravel.
When the family moves to a small house, Enzo enjoys a cozy backyard and sunny spots to lounge in. Eve chooses to go back to work, so Zoë enters daycare, which leaves Enzo at home, bored, until Denny begins leaving the television set on for him. But his happiness is short-lived, for he is the first one to realize that something is seriously wrong with Eve; his acute sense of smell has detected a decaying odor emanating from within her head. When Denny is away from home at his next race, Eve wakes up with a terrible pain. It's so bad that she gathers Zoë and goes away, leaving Enzo alone for days.
While this is unfolding, Denny's team has won first place, and he's had an offer from a big-time team, but he must turn his back on the racing he loves as he has more urgent matters on his mind. Eve suffers an increasing array of terrible symptoms, such as mood swings, vertigo and nausea. She sometimes screams from pain yet refuses to seek medical care. And when she inevitably receives the worst diagnosis possible, the family is torn apart, beginning an intense emotional rollercoaster ride. Through it all, Enzo supports them in every possible way.
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is getting all kinds of buzz, and it deserves every accolade. Readers will be moved by this warm hug of a story (and may find themselves looking searchingly into the eyes of their own canine companions). Enzo is a charming and witty narrator. His tale, while hilarious at times, is quite often heartbreaking, but it is ultimately uplifting and heartwarming. And I found the ending to be oh so very satisfying!
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 7, 2011
The Art Of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein
- Publication Date: June 9, 2009
- Paperback: 321 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- ISBN-10: 0061537969
- ISBN-13: 9780061537967