BookBin2010: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Oh noes. Another book with a dog on the cover. A cute, adorable, fluffum-wuffum doggy. Loba’s literary kryptonite. Why is it that I can’t stay away from books with canines on the cover? It’s quite sad, really.

However, I must say that I have yet to be disappointed by the contents of such books. And Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain is definitely no exception to this rule.

First, let’s deal with a few things right up front. Yes, I picked up this novel because there was a dog on the cover. I’ve already confessed this particular weakness to you, so it’s not that surprising to hear again, right? Beyond the dog, however, I knew nothing of this story or its author. So imagine my surprise when I realized that it was a story told from the perspective of a linguistically erudite dog named Enzo who loved auto racing.

I kid you not.

To those of you who are cringing at one or more of the things I just wrote, let me reassure you now. First, reading a book written from a dog’s POV is not as disconcerting as you might initially think. In fact, such a story allowed me to discover the brilliance of Paul Auster. When in the right hands, such a story is a gift, pure and simple.

Next is the auto racing angle. Yes, naïveté led me to originally believe that the novel’s title somehow related to the dog doing the racing. I was genuinely surprised when I realized it was in reference to cars. I’m not a fan of watching any sports, so the thought of reading a book that focuses on car racing was initially quite off-putting. Here, though, it works. It works in the most exquisite ways.

Stein took a huge chance with the concept for this story…and he slams it right out the park (ooh, another sports analogy to describe a book rife with sports analogies!). His writing is strong, streamlined and well-oiled like the racing machines Enzo and his owner love so dearly. The story itself—the story of ordeals suffered by Enzo’s owner and, subsequently, Enzo—runs like a dangerous track, an endurance test that only the greatest drivers can survive. As you can see, the racing analogy runs deep in this story, but never runs trite.

In fact, the only fault I can find with this novel is the final chapter, which felt too schmaltzy and tacked on to warrant reading. However, perhaps this is my own personal mishegas, and you should simply ignore me.

Final Verdict: Enzo and his love of racing in the rain definitely will be staying in my library. Right in the section set aside for books with dogs on the covers. And, yes, this is a significant-sized section. Shut up.