Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein 

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: animal lovers (furthermore, lovers of philosophical animals), deep thinkers, and anyone that wants a touching read.

Rating: 7.5/10

  • A few inexplicit sex scenes. Everything is described through the eyes of a dog, so he can't exactly give all of the racy details. There is, however, a scene where an underage teen comes onto an adult male. Nothing happens, but it's still a very mature scene in nature. 
  • Quite a few smatterings of bad language, including some f-bombs. 
  • There are several serious issues dealt with in the story, such as illness, depression, and custody battles. 
  • Overall, it is what it is: adult fiction. It's not meant for young readers, and young readers may not enjoy it that much. This is a book that is probably best for those in their upper teens and on. 
A Warning: this book will make you wish that your dog could talk. As if "Up" didn't already do that to you.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a story entirely narrated by a dog named Enzo, who reflects upon his life with his beloved owner, Denny, on the night that he will be put down. Enzo leads us through the happiness and tragedy that he has seen firsthand in a lovable, honest, straightforward way that only a dog could manage.

The Positives:

-The narration. While I was very intrigued by a non-human narrator, I was also a little apprehensive about how good it would end up being. It turned out, my doubts were completely unnecessary because Enzo is not just your typical lovable and loyal dog; he's so, so much more. He's a dog that hopes to reincarnate to a human after his death; he sees the world around him with a clear and observant eye; he's funny; he's smart; he's completely honest. He makes this entire story because that itself is nothing extraordinary. There are plenty different books out there with a very similar formula, but Enzo makes this book something worthwhile.

-It's neither too tragic, nor too sappy. Where other stories seem to fall into one extreme, or the other, The Art of Racing in the Rain finds the all-important middle ground. There are definitely some things that are going to tug at your heart strings, and maybe even make you shed a few tears, but there are plenty of happy moments, too. It just comes out feeling very natural and very real.

-The writing style. It was nice and simple. Not once did I find myself thinking that a sentence or a description just didn't fit, or that anything came off sounding unnatural. While I wouldn't say it quite qualifies as beautiful, it was very well done, and that is something that can be hard to find.

-This quote:
"To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to."

The Negatives:

-Denny. Look, it's not that I don't love Denny (Enzo's master), it's just that sometimes I got frustrated with how perfect he seemed. It's not that he doesn't make a few mistakes, he does, but a mistake is not the same thing as a flaw, and all characters need flaws. It even says in the book (and is obviously making a comparison Denny), "The true hero is flawed." Now tell me, where is Denny's flaw? It then goes on to say, "The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles - preferably of his own making - in order to triumph.”  Now that bit about the obstacles makes sense; Denny faces many obstacles, but having a loved one get a brain tumor, or having to decide between staying with your family and racing are just that: obstacles. Not flaws. I just want one flaw. One little flaw. Even if it's just that he's a mouth-breather.

-The hype. Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking right now; this has nothing to do with the story itself. And you're right. But I just think that it should be mentioned that I read all of the great things that critics and readers alike said about it, and I was expecting to be blown away. I wasn't. Seriously, a blip on the back cover from the Portland Oregonian said that it was "One of those stories that may earn it's place next to Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, and Yann Martel's Life of Pi." Alright, so I confess that I haven't read those first two, but Life of Pi! I adore Life of Pi! It's one of my favorites! It absolutely boggled my mind! You can't just compare a book to Life of Pi and think that I'm going to have incredibly high expectations for said book! Obviously the Portland Oregonian did this just to get my hopes up; that stupid tease!


It's a pretty good read. I wouldn't call it amazing, or even "really good", (obviously since I just called it "pretty good") but it certainly is unique and worth your while. I give you my blessing to try it out. I'd recommend it for whenever you want to feel some un-fictional emotions stirrings for a fictional story, or for whenever you want a quick and easy, but engaging read. So go ahead, pick it up if you've got the time!


  1. I really enjoyed this review, and they way you break down your thoughts on each book you have reviewed so far.

    I noticed this novel on Goodreads, but hesitated to want to read it. I am a HUGE sap where animals are involved, and just reading the blurb alone made me emotional (I hate the idea of animals dying; pets should live forever!). I also wasn't sure on the narration coming from a non-human, but.. was still curious. I am quite intrigued to give it a go after reading your review, as long as I have kleenex close at hand.

    New Follower on GFC! Found you on Goodreads. I am also a blogger at Check it out and give us a follow if you'd like.

    Looking forward to future posts!


    1. Thanks so much for the comment and the feedback! You should definitely try it out; you sound like you would love it!

      I'm also following your blog, and I love it!

      Thanks again!