A Look at the Book

Natalie Brink, News Editor

When I picked up Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain” in a frenzied rush to read it the night before I had to write an essay about it, I didn’t expect to cry at the first chapter. Since it was a book for school, I thought it would be as dry and boring as all the other required books in English. I was very wrong. 

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a dramatic novel that follows racecar driver Danny Swift and his family through the eyes of his faithful golden retriever, Enzo. The driver and dog support each other through the trials of life. From Danny’s relationship with a woman Enzo feels he can’t compete with, to babies, the harsh realities of a racing career and a cunning murder of crows that torments Enzo.

The emotional impact this book has had on me is immense. Usually, when a dog narrates a story, it has an overall comical effect. This novel had funny moments (see: a murder of crows that torments Enzo), but the main tone is sensitive and full of humanity. Enzo’s narration offers the readers an innocent lens with which they can witness the heartbreaking story. A human voice would taint the story, add grudges and bitterness. But a dog narrator removes these negative burdens from the storytelling. Enzo still dislikes some characters, but not in a way that distracts from the plot, like what would happen if Danny was the story’s narrator. Using a dog as the narrator was a brilliant twist to the drama genre.

The characters in this book are all wonderfully crafted. They come across as living people, and I do not know how Stein does it. I do know that these rich characters allow for complex relationships to form between them. And even Enzo is a well thought out, fully realized character. His noverbal relationships with Danny and, begrudgingly, Eve (Danny’s love interest) seem realistic, even with one of the characters being a dog. Enzo even becomes the protector of their daughter Zoë, which is truly the most touching relationship in the book.

Every reader knows where the book ends to some extent, because the first chapter takes place when Enzo is old and dying. It also features a dog as its main character, so his death is no real surprise. Still, the ending hit me like a bag of wet cement. To this day, I can’t reread the book (I usually reread books that I love) because of how it ends ー and also because how it starts. It makes narrative sense as to why Stein framed his story this way, but I wish the book ended differently. I should mention the book has an epilogue of sorts to soothe the pain of the ending. So if you end up reading it you won’t be completely devastated, just mostly devastated.

I read this book freshman year, and it is still one of my favorite books. Certain moments are so poignant that they stay with me still. Such as Enzo knowing a terrible truth about Eve but not being able to tell anybody because he is a dog. Or Enzo’s rivalry with the crows that winds up with him tricking them into eating his own waste. This is a book capable of slipping into your thoughts days or years after you have read it, and I think that is something only extraordinary stories can do.

If you love dogs in any way, shape or form this book with be both a really distressing and a really uplifting read. If you love books in any way, shape or form this book has a wealth of literary merit for you to uncover. It will make you cry one moment, but laugh the next. It is a complex family drama that grips you until the very last page. My advice is that anyone looking for a genuinely touching, intimate story about the life of a family should pick up this book. You will most likely cry more than once, but if you are willing to read it, you will uncover the delightful storytelling that Stein has to offer. Just take a deep breath and dive in.