Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain
By Garth Stein

This novel came off my "Want to Read" list because it had strong reviews. The main attraction for me was the narrator, a dog named Enzo. This is a great book for males and it was all about auto racing. While I'm neither male or a race car enthusiast, I still loved this book. In the end, the story pulled at all my heartstrings. It made me weep like a baby on more than one occasion. It made me miss my dog tremendously. It even made me appreciate racing in a way I never thought I could.

The story is about a family that suffers through a terrible illness, then death. After Eve, the mother, dies, her husband Denny has pretty serious legal struggles with his in-laws. The story is told only through what Enzo hears in conversation or sees on his own. You can hear the unconditional love that he exhibits to his master, Denny, and to Denny's daughter, Zoe. I remember FEELING his frustration as he saw something that he cannot verbalize. This book made me feel strangely privileged to be a human.

It is not often I come across a great book for men, but this one definitely falls under that category. It's not dragged down by complex story lines or characters. It reads quickly, but still has substance, as you'll see in my notes below. While I don't actually think men would cry too much, I'd be surprised if it didn't stir emotions in any reader. I cried at least three different times. I finished the book at the gym, something I'd advise against. Nothing looks sillier than someone tearing up while reading on a stationary bike.

For as fast as I zipped through this book, I was still able to mark some passages to share. Rereading them I realized that the most profound thoughts all came from Enzo, who is a fantastic character and one of my favorites in fiction. I loved the perspective of this story! Very different and very refreshing.

That which you manifest is before you. (p. 46 and others - a theme)

Often things happen to race cars in the heat of the race. A square-toothed gear in a transmission may break, suddenly leaving the driver without all of his gears. Or perhaps a clutch fails. Brakes go soft from overheating. Suspensions break. When faced with one of these problems, the poor driver crashes. The average driver gives up. The great drivers drive through the problem. They figure out a way to continue racing. Like in the Luxembourg Grand Prix in 1989, when the Irish racer Kevin Finnerty York finished the race victoriously and later revealed that he had driven the final twenty laps of the race with only two gears! To be able to possess a machine in such a way is the ultimate show of determination and awareness. It makes one realize that the physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak; a true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible. (p. 64-65 and the emphasis added)

I couldn't read their body language because I couldn't see them, but there are some things a dog can sense. Tension. Fear. Anxiety. These states of being are the result of a chemical release inside the human body. They are totally physiological, in other words, involuntary. People like to think they have evolved beyond instinct, but in fact, they still have fight-or-flight responses to stimuli. And when they respond, I can smell the chemical release from their pituitary glands. For instance, adrenaline has a very specific odor, which is not so much smelled but tasted. (p. 78)

People, like dogs, love repetition. Chasing a ball, lapping a course in a race car, sliding down a slide. Because as much as each incident is similar, so it is different. (p. 96)

Who is Achilles without his tendon? Who is Samson without Delilah? Who is Oedipus without his clubfoot? Mute by design, I have been able to study the art of rhetoric unfettered by ego and self-interest, and so I know the answers to these questions.

The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles - preferably of his own making - in order to triumph. A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which, after all, is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object.  (p. 135)

There is nothing like it. The sensation of speed. Nothing in the world can compare. (p. 154)

Many of us have convinced ourselves that compromise is necessary to achieve our goals, that all of our goals are not attainable so we should eliminate the extraneous, prioritize our desires, and accept less than the moon. (p. 246)

More links:
  • Book website: http://www.garthstein.com/arr/

1 comment:

Brasil said...

I absoloutely loved that the book was told from the dogs perspective. I've often looked at my pets wondered what they were thinking. Garth Stein does an incredible job of telling Enzos' story. And I found it to be very believeable and amusing at times. It was a bittersweet quick read. I look forward to his future works.