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The Art of Racing in the Rain    by Garth Stein order for
Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

Race car drivers recognize that rain is dangerous. Success under rainy conditions depends largely upon the driver's skill. Denny Swift is one of those skillful drivers, coming from misty, rainy Seattle. Racing in the rain can also refer to drawing upon your integrity, ability, and fortitude when threatened. This is what Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain is about.

The narrator is Enzo, a lab-terrier mix and Denny's loyal companion. Enzo laments that he's not human, that he doesn't have opposable thumbs, and that he is limited to gestures when communicating. But, he understands the human heart, has an inherent sense of when to bark and when to be quiet, when to sound a warning and when to be supportive. And he loves racing as much as Denny does.

Denny meets and falls fully in love with Eve. They marry and have a daughter together, ZoŽ. Migraines begin to plague Eve, but she refuses to see a doctor. One day, she has no choice. Eve is diagnosed with a brain tumor; ZoŽ is three. When Eve dies, Denny isn't permitted to grieve, as the Evil Twins - Eve's parents - use their wealth and power to take ZoŽ from him. How much can a man take? Although Denny is a competitor, and he loves ZoŽ, he also knows the good guys don't always win.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is written memoir-style, through the eyes of Enzo who, on the night he dies, reminisces about the life he shared with Denny. In life it often happens that when it rains it pours, and Denny's experiences have a realism that absorbs the reader, and testify to the resilience of the human spirit. This is a well crafted, meaningful story written with an insider's knowledge of professional racing.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Enzo is kind. Compassionate. Articulate. Understanding. Loving. Caring. Just the kind of male any female would like to have in her life. Unfortunately, Enzo does not have opposable thumbs. Nor does he have the power of speech.

Enzo is a dog! Were any dog to have the power of transferring his thoughts, Enzo is the dog with whom I would like to communicate. He is all of the above and more. He lives with his owner Denny in Seattle. As readers, we meet Enzo, who tells his life story in meandering thoughts to which we are privy.

When Enzo begins his story, he starts at the end, lying beside his master, in a puddle of urine. He is embarrassed but at peace with what his accident signifies. He is sure Ė no, he is positive that when he takes his last breath, his soul will enter a human's soul and he will become a man! A real live human! He's not sure if he will remember his sojourn on earth as a dog. He would like to think he would be able to tell Denny in human words that his master gave him a good life.

Enzo wants him to know that he loved him very much. There is so much he wants to tell the man who cared for him as if he was his son. He knows that he was a lucky dog the day his master chose him rather than his litter mates. He's not sure if he has much longer. And that's okay. He is tired and ready to let go.

Enzo spends the time he has to describe for us what his life had been like. Denny lost his lovely wife and Enzo was there for him. The two of them watched car races on TV together. Denny is a race car driver and Enzo is so proud of his human. He even gets to ride in a race car on a trial run around a track.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein will grab you by the heartstrings Ė have you laughing out loud and crying real tears. You may look at your own dog a little differently now. I've often wondered if a dog has thoughts and what they might be. Do they hate what could be called servitude to their masters? Do they love unconditionally? Do they judge us for our indiscretions? Are they ever proud of us? The twist at the very end (no peeking) will have you taking a different look at your companion.

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