“. . . life, like racing, is about so much more than simply going fast.”
Enzo, the dog, is nearing the end of his life. His eyes clouded, his joints stiff, he lives out his last years with his racecar driver owner, Denny Swift—and he tells us about it. Enzo gives us his dog’s-eye view of human life.
Garth Stein’s choice of dog as narrator reflects his background as a documentary filmmaker. Dogs are a taken-for-granted presence in the room, so humans say and do things in front of them they wouldn’t say or do in front of other humans. Dog narration allows Stein to show a documentary-style unvarnished “truth” of human interactions captured when no one is looking.
One of the most intriguing themes of the book—Enzo’s belief that he will be reincarnated as a man—comes from documentary as well. Enzo watches television, and during one of his long days without Denny, he watches a documentary about Mongolians preparing departed dogs for their next incarnation as a man. (Given Enzo’s fondness for racing videos and documentary, dog owners might want to be more mindful about what is on television when their dog is around.)
Any dog named after Enzo Ferrari is certain to have some insights into life well lived. As the story unfolds, Denny and Enzo impart life truths derived from successful race car driving.
“No race has ever been won in the first corner; many races have been lost there.”
“To remember is to disengage from the present . . . a driver must never remember.”
“That which you manifest is before you.”
This wouldn’t be a story about racing in the rain if a little “rain” didn’t fall on Denny Swift’s head, and fall it does. Denny and Enzo adapt to changes, suffer loss, face their demons, and “handle their cars” through obstacle courses of adversity. But in life, as in racing, experience improves performance. Every setback is a lesson learned. Every successful a building block.
Readers who appreciate whimsy will love The Art of Racing in the Rain and Enzo’s charming take on life. Those with tougher shells won’t be attracted to it, and that’s a shame; they might be the ones who need it the most.
To read an interview with Garth Stein, go here: http://www.garthstein.com/index.php
Arlene Somerton Smith