My Sunday Review
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
This Sunday, and for my The Sunday Salon post, I have finished my second book of the week and will be commencing a new one, Dewey-The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. But, before I scoot along to Dewey, I want to share with you my experience with The Art of Racing In the Rain.
First and foremost, I must share that the picture of the doggie on the cover of the book looks just like my darling, Tori. She’s a beautiful, 3-year old Yellow English Labrador Retriever with a heart of GOLD! We call her “Golden Star, ” amongst other things. So, like Marley and Me, The Art of Racing in the Rain, grabbed me by the sheer connection to my beautiful “Puppers.” The name of my blog, A Novel Menagerie, is not only because I have a menagerie of books that I love to read, but also because I am the master/owner of a considerably large in-home menagerie. Tori, was our first dog… and the heart and soul of our family.
Here are some pictures of my baby-cakes:
Doesn’t she look like the cover in this picture? We were on our way to Big Bear for Thanksgiving, stuck in traffic on the 91… she was sitting in the front of my little Lexus (miss the gas mileage on that car!).
The picture below is on the first day that we brought her home and into our family. I’ve never, in my life, seen the twins so completely and utterly happy. She’s so pretty!
Tori was, for us, a dream and a goal that we all wanted to reach. We decided that it was not fair to a dog to adopt her until we knew we owned a home and that took us 3 years to achieve. We searched and searched for her. I wanted a small dog, like a purse puppy. But, this dog is the one that God led us to… and we ended up falling madly in love with. People exclaim that they are so jealous that we own her and promise to kidnap her one day while we are fast asleep. FAT CHANCE!
How does this relate to The Art of Racing in the Rain? Well, the story is told from the viewpoint of “Enzo,” a yellow Labrador retriever mix, male dog. That immediately grabs me into purchasing, reading and reviewing this novel.
Oh, and girls… I know totally inappropriate of me… but, the author is so friggin’ cute… but, married… with kidlets. Well, I’m kinda into those grey-haired, goatee’d guys… with blue eyes.. and on the video… (below), <sigh>… Anyway, in case you know a single one that fits that description in Orange County, CA… write me! Oh, well… I’ll find my grey-haired fox someday! Now, back to my story…
So, I picked up the novel as part of my Fall Into Reading Challenge 2008. I expected a lot, of course, that may come from reading Marley & Me (wonderful book). This book was a good one. The only part I couldn’t really “sink my teeth into” were the racing metaphors and info. Now, perhaps if I was a race car enthusiast, I may have LOVED the book… and, perhaps those who do follow the circuit… may LOVE this work. I can’t say that I loved it, but I certainly did enjoy it and am glad that I read it.
Author: Garth Stein
Book Website: www.artofracingintherain.com
Author’s Website: http://www.garthstein.com/
Publisher: Harper Collins
The Art of Racing in the Rain begins with the narration of Enzo, a yellow Labrador retriever mix. He tells the story of how he met his owner, Denny, a race car driver and mechanic by day. From there, Enzo tells the tale of how Denny fell in love with Eve, whom he marries quickly. They have a daughter, Zoe, and eventually fulfill the “American Dream” and move into a house in Seattle, Washington.
At first, Enzo is not thrilled with Eve or her relationship with Denny, but eventually he finds his place as her protector. In addition, Enzo comes to love little Zoe beyond measure. Enzo is completely obsessed with his next life as a human and the use of opposable thumbs. He shows an innate intelligence and discusses his TV shows and knowledge of the human and animal races. He is sure that, in his next life, he will be reincarnated to a man who will shake hands with Denny and become a race-car driver.
Enzo detects an odor from Eve’s head, that he believes to be an odor which describes a deep illness within her. She subsequently suffers from migraines and horrible spells, but absolutely refuses to go to the doctor. In addition, when she slices open her hand and OBVIOUSLY needs to go to the Emergency Room, she insists on not going. But, fate has a way of just making things happen… she has an injury on a rock at a local waterfall and ends up being rushed to the hospital for a concussion. Here, the large tumor is identified and later discovered to be a life-ending, cancerous one.
Eve’s awful parents… and, you’ll only understand “awful” when you read the book…. who live on a nearby island, insist that Eve is taken to their home for nursing and recovery as Denny was working and could not provide for her the full time attention that she required. He begrudgingly agreed. Then, they hit him with the WHAMMY, they feel it best that Zoe stay their during her convalescence as “her mother is dying” and “she should spend as much time with her as possible.” The writing is on the wall. So, Denny agrees and they set up a “visitation schedule” of sorts.
Months go by and eventually, Eve passes. That’s when the madness begins. The parents sue for custody of Zoe and go to extreme tactics to ensure their success. This part of the story I shall leave out for the sake of those who have not yet read this book. In any event, the second half of the book is Denny’s brave trail towards winning custody of his daughter back and realizing his dream in race car driving.
The story does end on a happy note, albeit a bit predictable.
My favorite quote from the book:
“…My soul has learned what it came here to learn, and all the other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.”
-and later on the same page:
“I know this much about racing in the rain. I know it is about balance. it is about anticipation and patience. I know all of the driving skills that are necessary for one to be successful in the rain. But racing in the rain is also about the mind! It is about owning one’s own body. About believing that one’s car is merely an extension of one’s body. About believing that the track is an extension of the car, and the rain is an extension of the track, and the sky is an extension of the rain. It is about believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you.”
An interesting interview with Garth Stein (from his website):
Your novel is told in the voice of Enzo, aspiring race-car driver Denny Swift’s loyal dog, who has a keen observer’s detachment, as opposed to the human characters and their conflicting emotions. How did you develop the dog’s voice?
If Enzo had a choice, he would love to interact with the world around him much more than his limitations as a dog allow. It is his enforced muteness that drives him to hone his powers of opinion and observation. So his voice grew out of that—what would it be like to be trapped in a sound-proof booth in which you could hear everything but say nothing? Well, first, I think, you would become a very good listener.
Enzo is one of those dogs that is “nearly human,” but at one point in the story he feels the need to lose that complexity and just be an animal for a while. Why did that happen?
We all suffer moments of self-doubt, and Enzo is no different. Midway through the novel, he has a crisis of faith—he believes that his attempts to live to human standards have not helped any of the people he loves so much, and so he goes wilding and embraces his true canine nature. It’s funny, but in the context of the story, it’s actually one of the most human things he could possibly do.
It is interesting that the dog can sense Eve’s illness before anyone else can. Where did that idea come from?
I have read articles about dogs who can smell disease, especially cancer, so that’s something that is out there and is not a new idea. But what I wanted to convey with Enzo is not so much his “smelling” of Eve’s illness but his sensitivity to her condition on an energetic level. My wife is an energy intuitive, which means she can read illness in people or bacteria in foods and so on. It sounds a little crazy to hear about a person doing it; for some reason, it’s somewhat less threatening to hear about a dog doing it.
How did your own experiences in racing influence the character of Denny Swift and his experiences?
I’ve done some racing on the club level, and I really enjoy it. My experience in racing definitely helped me write the car scenes. But, maybe more importantly, my racing experience led me to a great friendship with a semipro race-car driver, Kevin York, who kind of acted as the inspiration for Denny. Kevin is racing in the Koni Challenge series this year, and his #75 car sports a GoEnzo.com decal!
How do you balance writing with three kids at home?
I can answer that with a children’s riddle: A man who weighs 150 pounds has three ten-pound bowling balls. He has to carry all three balls across a bridge over a deep abyss, but the bridge can only support 170 pounds, and he can’t make more than one trip. How does he cross the bridge with all the bowling balls? (Answer: he juggles the balls as he crosses the bridge! Voila!)
What’s your next project?
I have a few different ideas I’m playing with, and I know that soon they will all fall into place, and I’ll have a great story. Until then, please enjoy Enzo!
Garth’s Video on the Book:
On Sher’s “One to Ten Scale…”
This is a tough one for me. I wanted so much to give it a higher score than I’m able to give it. It was an enjoyable book and one that I can relate to. But, in my honest opinion, I have to give it a 7.
Oh, and just one more picture of my cute dog (sorry.. had to)
Other Reviews: http://bcfreviews.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/the-art-of-racing-in-the-rain-by-garth-stein/
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