Garth Stein’s gently unique bestseller is a tearjerker featuring the most unlikely of protagonists- Enzo, a mongrel of uncertain lineage with a keen and brilliant mind that yearns to escape its canine body. Enzo’s owner, Denny Swift, is a race car driver who excels on the track but has pretty shitty luck in general. Enzo is devoted to Denny and his wife Eve’s little daughter, Zoe. So when Zoe’s happiness is put at stake by Eve’s slow death by cancer and a ensuing court battle brought on by Eve’s meddling parents, Enzo must do all in his limited power to mend Zoe and her father’s lives.
Enzo may be an unreliable narrator at times (consider his limited experience with people outside his family’s immediate circle,) but he’s twice as smart and observant as your average protagonist and he knows plenty about the follies and frailties that inhabit the human soul. In fact, Enzo is so fascinated by the inner workings of mankind that he hopes to reincarnated as a man. But before his increasingly imminent demise comes around, Enzo is determined to protect those he loves- especially when Denny is falsely accused of abusing a minor, which is used in the courtroom to keep him from his beloved daughter.
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at this book. Sick, injured, and dead doggies hit a nerve for me, so watching Enzo deteriorate physically was a rough journey for me. Readers cautious about reading the book should know that the end result is bittersweet and ultimately uplifting rather than nihilistic and relentlessly gloomy. I don’t always agree with Enzo on his musings (such as his hope to become human, people aren’t such hot shit) but it is hard not to care for him when you consider his devotion to his family and his unique viewpoint.
The secondary characters aren’t developed nearly to the point of the canine protagonist, and some of the aspects seem a little childish or even ring false, but other whimsical components (such as the metaphor of the zebra) work more efficiently than they probably should. Things seemed to move a little fast (Eve was there and gone so fast I didn’t have time to blink) but the plot-lines worked reasonably well and summed up to a nice, quick read.
I am not at all a fan of NASCAR or automobile racing in general, but I didn’t find the prose concerning racing overbearing, and even, through Enzo’s eager eyes, could theorize a little on why people liked it The Art of Racing in the Rain
is a solid book which is a must-read for dog lovers and avid fiction readers alike.