sarah gregory on garth stein's the art of racing in the rain
I am not a fan of racing, but with a narrator so honest, innocent, and lovable I couldn’t help but be drawn into this story. In Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, Enzo, an old mutt, recounts his life with his master Denny Swift, as well as the hard times they pulled each other through.
Denny Swift is an aspiring race car driver and shares his passion with Enzo by allowing him to watch races and even go for a few fast laps around the track. Enzo is just one of many characters that capture the hearts of both Denny and the book's readers, with a few others being Denny's new wife, Eve, and their daughter, Zoe.
“That which you manifest is before you,” Denny tells Eve during one story about racing, and the idea that life is what we make of it becomes one of the book's important themes. Enzo observes this, along with other pieces of racing advice from Denny, and relates them to the growing conflicts in Denny’s life as he suffers financial hardships, struggles to hold his family together, and is charged for a crime that he did not commit.
Though some readers may be turned off by the idea of a dog narrating a book, Enzo’s ‘voice’ is so familiar that it is hard to imagine seeing the story through any other set of eyes. Dogs may not think like the fictional Enzo, but though his language is elementary, his observations about the human condition are both simple and wise. He claims that he is able to observe so wonderfully because he cannot talk, he can only listen and unlike humans, he never interrupts. Through his story he is able to teach us about loyalty, trust, and the bond between man and dog. After all, who or what could be more loyal and trusting than a dog?
A novel that is sure to prove man’s best friend is true - The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein will win your affections.
Sarah Gregory is a play writing and film studies graduate of Christopher Newport University.