The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, published by Harper Collins, New York Times Bestseller
For animal lovers who look into the eyes of their beloved pets and imagine they commune with another human being, this book is a must-read. Stein’s quirky and entertaining fiction teaches us about life. He tells the story through the point of view of a terrier pooch named Enzo (named after Enzo Ferrari, founder of the famous Italian automobile). Enzo is a philosopher dog with a nearly human soul. For years he educates himself in front of the TV. His canine heart fervently believes a National Geographic documentary film he once viewed about Mongolia; when a dog finishes living his lifetime as a dog, his next incarnation will be as a man.
In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wish that the dog will return as a man in the next life. His tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on it’s journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is free to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like. Not all dogs return as men, they say: only those who are ready. I am ready.
Stein gets down on all fours to live Enzo’s low-level world. With humour and pathos the writer projects Enzo’s advanced understanding of the humans he loves and depends on, and the humans trying to destroy those he loves. The surprise is how Stein weaves lessons about successful living into a metaphor of life as a car race–and Enzo buys into it heart and soul. Enzo listens to his master’s conversations, determined to learn human behavior from the parallel worlds of winners on the circuit and winners as human beings.
Toss into the mix the terrier’s owner Denny who dreams of stepping up his race ranking to the big leagues, Denny’s ailing wife Eve, a young daughter Zoe, Eve’s resentful parents Enzo calls, The Twins, a fatal illness, bleak circumstances and redemption. Lessons of the racetrack guide Enzo’s every enlightened and loyal moment. To the humans in his life he’s a good dog, but what they can’t see is what a good human being he becomes in preparation for his reincarnation.
Stein himself was a racing car driver and became involved with high performance driver education. His knowledgeable accounts of championship Formula One, Grand Prix and endurance car races, and the brilliant race strategies of respected drivers as seen through Enzo’s eyes is rich. The cover art of my copy shows a terrier wearing red driving goggles, his nose into the wind, his fur blown back with his red racing scarf – irresistible. There are several newer version with different dogs on the cover.
And Enzo feels frustrated by the stubborn humans he cannot warn of their bad behaviour — because he has no voice. The tender pooch worries over their mistakes and wrong moves, often from outside the house where he frets in isolation until reunited with them, picking up daily threads again. And he finds doggie ways to punish humans who deserve it.
You’re sure of where this book is going for Enzo, but the journey, and a satisfying heart-tug at the end make this book an uplifting read.
View: Book trailer.