Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Every year Graham picks me out a book for my Christmas stocking. He usually picks a winner, and this year it was too.
This story is about a family, but it is told by their dog. Sound like it's going to be cheesy? I have to admit it doesn't sound like my kind of book. But Garth Stein has an effortless writing style that I liked from the beginning. Even sweet Enzo the loyal dog was believable and not talking-dog goofy.
Denny is the main character and he has raised Enzo since he was a puppy. Denny gets married, has a baby daughter, and struggles to advance his race car driving career while being a responsible husband and father. The characters are all endearing. Well, except the awful in-laws.
Sprinkled in between the story chapters are short metaphoric references to racing. I know nothing about racing, but it all makes sense in the book. Refernces like "Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end." Good stuff, huh?
This story is sad, but I promise the ending is happy, all things considered. The title is great. Denny's specialty as a driver is his ability to race well in the rain. Denny faces a lot of adversity and sadness in this story, but he stays in control and wins. I feel like that theme carries the story well.
"The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles--preferable of his own making--in order to triumph." I usually like my heroes to be very, very good, but I think this is a good point. Maybe we want heroes to be more like us.
"Denny and I worked at slowing the breathing of our hearts so we wouldn't feel so much pain." Isn't that well said, and so sad?
I enjoyed the Seattle references. Especially when they go to Denny Creek that I hiked with my kids this summer. I also liked the references of the rain, and the beauty. If you grew up here like me, you'll like them too.
I saw a question posed as to whether having the family pet narrate this book added anything to the story. I've been thinking about it. I liked the point of view, and I definitely think it allowed for a unique perspective. I think the coolest aspect was that as a reader, you feel helpless like the dog. You see what is happening, sometimes with more insight than the characters, but you can't do anything to help. You can't warn anyone, you can't speak as a witness, but you still feel the anxiety. SO I do like the chosen perspective, and I look forward to reading more of Garth Stein.


Tara @ Tales of a Trophy Wife said...

I finally read it. I thought that having the book from the point of veiw of a dog would be stupid, but I loved Enzo's voice. I think there was just too much sad for me to really enjoy it but I give it a solid 3 out of 5.

Kammy T said...

I agree. In the middle I didn't think I could keep reading! Really it was so sad and just kept getting worse. I really liked that he didn't give in to the in-laws even when it seemed like the only way!