Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Second book club book #11

This book's narrator is a dog named Enzo. Right away, that presented certain problems for me. I don't like animal narrators telling a person's story. Give me Watership Down rabbits or the crew in Animal Farm anyday. Those animals, living in their own animalistic world, can talk up a storm. In The Arts of Racing in the Rain, Enzo is in our world, and it's awkward.

First of all, the dog seems to already know everything. Secondly, he has humans so figured out that, in his head, he almost always acts like one without prompting. It comes off a big snobbish. Why would a dog -- or any single being -- have it all figured out from the start? It detracts, in my opinion, from the story of Enzo's family.

Denny, is a race car driver, gifted, and hopefully on the path to a successful career behind the wheel. Eve is his wife, a loving and practical woman. Eventually, Zoe comes along, an intuitive and patient child. Enzo is their dog. It's a family full of love. Then, tragedy strikes, and it all falls apart. Most of the struggle falls on Denny, with Enzo as his witness. It's such an unfair hand dealt to a single person, but Denny endures with an almost unnatural amount of stoicism. Enzo attributes it to his training as a racer. 

The family moves down the path of adversity, seemingly rewarded for their faith and patience. I didn't buy it.

The struggles are too extreme. The resolution comes too fast and all-at-once. The human element is uncomfortably absent, making certain moments feel too abrupt. Instead of walking beside the people in the story, you're running through tall grass with the dog.

While I get that Denny, having mastered racing in the rain, can now manage the rough waters of his life, I don't fully understand why I can't experience this revelation through Denny's eyes. Why must Enzo also have an 'aha' moment and somehow feel vindicated in his life choices?

This book bugs me, but it would be unfair to deny that it's a good, emotional story. I can see why it's so well-liked. I may be too much of a snob for it, but it's definitely a good, well-thought-out story, perfect for those looking for a heart-felt read. 

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