The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein

Bark! Bark ! Bark ! Like my dog’s barking, The Art of Racing in the Rain, yaps at you with sporadically good points: how we treat family; how we look at the ill; how we look at the aged, the infirmed and others.

I have a dog. Do I think he thinks as a human…if he does, he is the most obstinate and non-cooperative human I know.  His responses to any and almost every command is hesitation and reluctance, as if he were thinking it over, mulling it over in his mind as to the gains and losses in making a positive response. He understands the commands as he confirms by occasionally responding positively to them. However, the very next day, there may be no response or a total disregard upon hearing the command being given.

Enzo may not be so obdurate. He may not have the streak of obstinancy within him that my dog, Fermo, has. But Fermo proves, over and over, that he is not unintelligent or dumb. He repeatedly proves that he knows what the command means but at this moment, he chooses to ignore it. Hard to understand. A dog’s way of thinking.

Enzo speaks to the readers of this book for it is his narrative throughout. We hear how he thinks, his views about various things, his lamentations about growing old and his increasing aches and pains. In that sense his wish to be human is very much in sync with other humans. But for his physicality, he is human. His yearning for the actualization of his wishes is understand and regrettable for this dog in some ways would be a better human than many humans.

The story
The story line is melodramatic but enjoyable. It is a sequence of soap operas that tug at the heart strings and the emotions. But by the same toke, that which makes the book good, makes it bad.

It is a series of soap opera stories which are warming, sad, joyful and happy. Everyone is saddened by illness and death, particularly when it is someone realtively young and more importantly when it impacts on children. This book plucks those strings and plays that tune well.

Add some suspense, some court room anxiety and some dramatic crescendos to those things and you again play a popular tune for a book.

Did I like the book
As much as I am a pet lover, having been master to three dogs before Fermo, I am resistant to being manipulated and managed as a reader. Stein, the author, manipulates and manages with the best of them. He must have inventorized which human plays, human events, human dramas tug at human emotions readily and pragmatically. Premature deaths, early and serious illnesses, loss of a parent, particularly a mother, young daughter, pre 10 years of age, losing her mother….wooo my aching heart. Add in some angry stuff, grandparents who want to take custody of the youngster, yanking him from the loving hands of the father, a court room case where the loss will be devastating to our human protagonist. Oh this book bends the emotions with no let up.

Maybe the obvious train of soap opera events might have been somewhat acceptable had it be written with suitable melodrama and emotion. It lost out on that one too. This is a book written in a plodding manner, without zip, pizzazz, oomph or thud. OK, others may not agree. There’s no accounting for easy susceptibility to light and obvious flirtation. This book is light and obvious in every regard.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is not on track for me. I cannot recommend it. But I will yield that it is written in such a way that it will appeal to many because it appeals to the base nature of every human being, a nature that aches with illness and death, pains with loss of parent, and dislikes familial discard and conflict. We all can relate to those things well.

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