Books & Tea {Spoiler Free}: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side.

My Rating



My Thoughts

So... I hadn't planned on writing this review, in fact, I probably shouldn't be writing this review when I have an essay due at 10 'o' clock in the morning; an essay I haven't even started yet. But you know, it is what it is. After reading this book, I've had the need to talk about it for more than a week, and the feels have just been festering inside me. If there's one thing that I've learned from this book, it's that it's not good keep your feels locked inside because one day you're just going to blow, and you'll be nothing, but a blob of feels. 


Plus, in this book I found ALL THE QUOTES. All the quotes. I repeat, All. The. Quotes.

Here are just a few to satisfy your pretty quote needs:

***

"Force the sun to overcome adversity in order to rise. Then we will cheer!" - Enzo


"Sometimes bad things happen... Sometimes things change, and we have to change, too." -Zoë


"Beware the whimsy of Fate... She is a mean bitch of a lab." - Enzo

***

I was ready to give this book 3.5 stars, but then it made me shed one single tear against my will, so now I have to give it 3.8 stars. After all, books that turn on the waterworks are the books that count.

I really enjoyed this book. Even though it centers around familial struggles, which isn't an uncommon topic, especially for contemporaries, Enzo's special way of story-telling is really what made this novel memorable. Not only is it coming from the perspective of a dog, which puts a fun little twist on things by itself, but I'm pretty sure this dog is smarter than me. He's collected so much from just observing the world around him, watching TV, and listening to Denny's racing lessons that sometimes you forget Enzo is not a human. Which makes me think, what if all dogs secretly thought like Enzo? And what if we were all dogs in our past life? I just find that really cool to think about. 

I also love how philosophical he gets about pretty much anything. Enzo has this ability to look at anything or do anything, it could be as simple as walking to the couch, and extract some kind of significant meaning from that experience. He isn't simply learning lessons about life and how to be a good human, getting rid of his "doggedness", but he's teaching those lessons to us as well. It's impossible not to love Enzo.

I have never read Garth Stein's work before, but I found myself being able to connect to his writing style, if that makes any sense. I feel as though, my writing style is similar to his and in a way, how I think, though that probably doesn't make much sense either. I don't know, maybe I just love how Stein is able to mix philosophy, emotion, and humor so very beautifully. Plus, I liked how this novel made you think, not necessarily about the events that took place in the story, but about life and human nature in general. 

When it comes to the characters, aside from Enzo, I think this is where the book starts to fall flat. I really wanted to love them because it's not that they weren't well developed or that they were bland because they weren't any of those things. It's just that for some reason, I had a hard time connecting to them even though I really did like them.. most of them.. let's just say, I felt something for nearly all of them. It was like there was this gap between like and love, and due to some invisible forces out in the universe, we couldn't build that bridge. And even though I don't think this gap took away from the plot too much, I still would have preferred to have been able to latch on to these characters and really feel for them.

There was however, an exception for Mike and Tony. I loved their relationship with Denny and Enzo, and how they were always there to catch Denny when he fell. You don't see that a lot between male characters these days, and it's even rarer for the friends of the male protagonist to reach out to him and tell him that he it's okay, instead of the protagonist reaching out to his friends for someone to talk to. There's this stigma that men are made of stone and should never feel the need to cry, which is not true at all, and you really got to see this novel break through that stereotype.

Speaking of relationships, I really enjoyed reading about all the relationships the characters had and formed, especially within Enzo's immediate family. You could really feel the love and it was nice to watch their bonds strengthen. The relationship I thought developed the best was between Eve and Enzo. They didn't get along too well at first, and I don't think that initial awkwardness between them ever really left. Yet, as time went on, it was clear that they both trusted each other with all their heart, which did bring a little smile to my lips.

If that was all I had to say about "The Art of Racing in the Rain," then this book would have 4.5 stars. Unfortunately it's not, and what I'm about to say is why that 4.5 was bumped down to a 3.8. There was this huge conflict that I felt was drawn out for so long, which isn't the issue. The issue is that the solution, after such a drawn out conflict, felt rushed and just thrown in there to bring a swift conclusion. The ending was also a bit confusing because during almost the entirety of the novel, Enzo is reflecting on his life, so you're not sure if he's still talking about the past or if he's moved on to the present. I also found the ending sort of dull, I mean it was sweet and nice, but dull. It could be because it ended so sweetly that all the sadness that I felt was wiped away to the point I really didn't care about what happened. In a way, I guess you could say I was put at peace, but I think I became a little too peaceful, does that make sense? There was also something I really wanted Enzo to say at the end, but he didn't say it, so I'm not gonna lie, I was feeling a little salty when I finished that last page.

Have you read "The Art of Racing in the Rain?" Let me know what some of your opinions are about the book!

The best of wishes, Z

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