Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Date Finished: November 8, 2008
Pages: 321

This book was the November pick for my IRL book club. I can honestly say that if this book was not picked for me, it would have probably taken me a while to pick it up on my own. Don't get my wrong, I would have eventually picked it up, but not so quickly. I tend to shy away from books that are about animals. They often a)make me sad; b)make me want another animal; and c)turn me into a blubbering mess complete with the red nose and tissues strewn all about.

This book was no exception, there were tears in the first chapter, which prompted me to call up my friend that picked this book and ask her if I was going to be able to read this at the office on my lunch break, or if this was something I should just read in the privacy of my own home! She assured me that I would be okay until the last chapter or so, and that I should really try to save that for home. So, I kept reading.

Garth Stein does a great job of making this book unique. The point of view in this book is that of the dog, Enzo. (Side note: I'm really liking books lately where the point of view is that of an unobvious character... like The Book Thief.) Enzo is a lab, who believes that some terrier is mixed into him, that was picked up as a puppy and adopted by Denny Swift. Denny is a race car driver trying to make a place for himself in the racing world.

"Very gently. Like there are eggshells on your pedals, Denny always says, and you don't want to break them. That's how you drive in the rain." (p.13).

From the very beginning Denny talks about racing with Enzo and explains all the life lessons that he has learned from the track. He even leaves the t.v. on for Enzo while he is at work, but only if he will not just lay in front of the t.v. all day, but be responsible and only watch for a while. Enzo's world changes a little with the addition of Eve and then later on Zoe. Enzo immediately feels protective of Zoe and would do anything for her.

"Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively" (p.1).

Enzo, after watching so much t.v. realizes that he is a unique dog, who is ready to leave his dog shell and come back as a human. He wants so badly to communicate, especially as Denny's world falls in around him. He wants to be able to tell Zoe that something is wrong with her, but cannot. He understands how important it is to have thumbs.

Through Denny's hard times, Enzo is always there by his side, listening to what he says. He points out that as humans, we often do not listen to each other, but are always interrupting to tell our own versions of stories. We never stop and really listen to each other. Being a dog, Enzo is always listening and even though he cannot answer out loud, he does the best he can with gestures.

The hard times that Denny falls on started to become a little overwhelming for me, it seemed like the poor guy was never going to catch a break. I know that people fall on hard times, but it was one thing after another. Luckily during all of his trials and tribulations, he had Enzo by his side. Although I am not a big racing fan, I really appreciated all of the racing/real life analogies.

Garth Stein did a wonderful job with this book, and I would recommend it to others. You do not have to be an animal lover or racing fan to enjoy this book. I think the heart of this story is very captivating and will really make you wonder if you do have pets, what it is that they really understand or are thinking.

I myself have a cat, and often times find myself talking to him like he's a person. When I have a bad day, or just want to chat, he's always there to listen and even though he can't speak back, it's nice to know he's there. Does this make me crazy? Maybe! But I'm okay with that. I've noticed that when I'm sick or sad, he's always by my side and very cuddly, which says to me that on some level they understand, whether by actions or tone of voice what we are feeling. I will leave you with these words from Enzo...

"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" (p. 314).

1 comment:

Laura said...

I'm sad I missed this book club sounds like a great book! I probably won't be able to read it for quite some time now.

I talk to my cat as well, so if you are am I! :)

I found The Zookeeper's Wife at Half Price Books yesterday, and I'm really looking forward to reading it!!