The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

2008, Harper Collins

Snapped up at the library’s buck a bag sale last year

I have a wonderful daughter-in-law, Julie, and a beautiful teen-aged granddaughter, Alyssa, and I don’t see nearly enough of them. They live 350 miles away, and they are busy with work and school, activities and obligations, friends and family life. They are animal lovers who have dogs and guinea pigs, fish and rabbits, and who spend a good amount of time volunteering at the Humane Society.

Julie and Alyssa both told me The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, would be the top book on the list if they made a list of books to recommend. When I found a hardcover copy in great condition at our library’s Buck-a-Bag book sale last year, I stuffed it into the bag.

It is a lovely story. Enzo the dog is the narrator. (Hmmm, I thought at first, but Enzo’s dog stance gives us both a unique closeness and a little appropriate distance from the characters who speak in this book. It is a fresh and engaging perspective.)

Enzo is loyalty personified, and his devotion to Denny, his race-car driving master, is limitless. Denny leaves the TV on for Enzo, and the dog watches and learns. Throughout the book, he shares auto racing wisdom with us—Enzo has gleaned this wisdom from watching racing on TV, with Denny and during the long days Denny is at work.

Wet, rainy tracks require great skill and intelligence to navigate, and that creates the metaphor for the entire book. Denny meets Eve, and their bond is immediate and irrevocable; they marry and have a baby girl named Zoe. Enzo’s charge is expanded; now he is Zoe’s protector as well as Denny’s companion. He takes it seriously.

We learn from the beginning that Eve’s health is more than worrisome, that her parents are not to be trusted, and that the track ahead is perilous—these characters will need steady hands on the wheel and alert, intense driving. The narrative rolls out in the period of one day, as Enzo, reflecting on his life, retells his story.

Julie and Alyssa have done their own driving in the rain, with sure and steady hands, and navigated tricky curves to arrive at their current safe and secure places. I’m very proud of them, and I’m glad they recommended this book. I finished it while cold April rains poured down outside, and the story made me sad and warmed my heart.

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