Saturday, July 25, 2015

O.o.O.C.: "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

Out of Orbit Critiques are the reviews on books outside my usual genres. In The Art of Racing in the Rain's case, it is a contemporary novel written from the first person perspective of a dog.

I'm usually loath to read anything contemporary, unless it happens to be nonfiction and has an outside the box plot, but because this book had a dog on the cover, I was convinced to pick it up some time ago. I wasn't disappointed with it at all, despite having general bad luck with 'dog on the cover' books.

Enzo, the dog who narrates the book, is the very soul of honesty, and has no clue at times how blunt he sounds, which is all part of the magic of this book. As a dog owner, I often wonder what in the world goes on in my canine companions' brains, and I think Mr. Stein really nailed it as far as male dogs go. Female dogs, however... I think they're a bit more mysterious in nature.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'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. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.
'A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human only a dog could tell it.'

It occurred to me while rereading this book that dogs make the perfect protagonist. Most of their weaknesses and faults will be forgiven, because they can't really be held to the human standard of behavior. Dogs also aren't fond of waxing poetic, so you don't have to use all those flowery words much of the time- although Enzo's observations can be intensely philosophical at times. Also, people aren't afraid to whisper their darkest secrets in front of a dog, because they can't tell... or can they?

The most unique element of this book (other than Enzo's narration) is the inclusion of car racing. I have to admit, I'm not a fan of racing, but I nonetheless enjoyed reading about it through Enzo's eyes. I can't say I've ever read a book with car racing included in it, so I actually learned a little about the subject while reading.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a sentimental, feel good book that makes you wonder what kind of narrators your own dogs would be. The story really isn't about Enzo, but rather his family, and despite my aversion to contemporary I was more than pleasantly surprised. If you're a dog lover who doesn't mind contemporary narratives, I recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain for your next read.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a funny, but heartfelt novel as told through the eyes of a dog.

Content: Ages 18+ for cursing and sexual references/content.

Page Count: 319 pages in my paperback edition.

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