Saturday, July 16, 2011

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" {by Garth Stein} Book Review

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Author: Garth Stein

# of Pages: 336

Year Published: 2008

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Fiction


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.

Our rating for this book...

3.2 stars

Shalease did a fabulous job as our moderator opening the evening with a fun “Racing” Q & A game that pitted two teams racing against each other to see who would cross the finish line first. The competition was fierce and one of the “drivers” (who shall remain nameless) got so excited she shouted her teams’ answer out loud! But despite her faux pas, her team pulled ahead to win at the last second. Victory went to Lisa, Kelly, Mindy & Karen for answering tough questions like, “What stuffed animal of Zoe’s did Enzo rip apart?” Ummmm…Zebra? We loved the game!

Shalease awarded each of the winning team members a fashionable set of bracelets and Kellie Hall surprised us with our own personal “matchbox” racing car. Thanks so much girls!

The inspiration for the book according to Garth Stein, came from 3 sources. 1- A documentary film called “State of Dogs” about Mongolian beliefs that the next incarnation for a dog will be a man. 2- A poem he heard recited about a euthanized dog who reminisced about his dislike for his master. 3- The last element of the story came from the author’s experience when he began doing some amateur race car driving & decided to apply the mental aspects of racing to life.

Our View: Most of us enjoyed the book while some thought there were some holes in the story line and felt the character development of Enzo was inconsistent at times. That being said, we found the book to be insightful, funny and had many life lessons to offer such as: *Never give up *Faith in yourself *Hope *Live in the moment *Never be afraid to fail *Be a good listener *Handling adversity with dignity *Focus on the goal *Positive energy returns positive results *Importance of family

Other topics we discussed included:
-Do dogs understand human language & sense emotion?
-The “Evil Twins”-- how they handled Eve’s death & was their custody fight with Denny realistic?
-How Eve responded to Denny in her last days & did she just give up and hasten her death?

We tossed around our views about animals and can they really sense things? Do they have feelings? The dog lovers in the group gave a resounding Yes—dogs do sense the energy we put out & respond accordingly. Their affection isn’t conditional and no matter what we’ve done, they always forgive us. For a book that only rated 3.2 stars, the discussion was quite interesting & varied. Chanel asked, “What are your ‘Zebra’s’?” This question evolved into a “therapy” session in which we all shared our personal “demons” or those things that we fear or that “push our buttons.” I think we all felt a little more group kinship from that experience of baring our souls just a bit and realized we all have things in common. In the book when Enzo is dying, he stresses that we are not alone in this life, that we are connected to everyone and everything around us. He said, “I will extend my hand, both metaphorically and physically. I will offer my hand. To him. To her. To you. To the world. …in the endeavor of life that we all share.”

The book had an abundance of great quotes, and here are a few favorites:

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves” (pg 43)

“The race is long—to finish first, first you must finish.” (pg 206)

“A racer should not be afraid of rain; a racer should embrace the rain” (pg 44)

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street…Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” (pg 101-102)

"To live everyday as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. …to say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to.” (pg 160)

When Shalease asked “What did the title, the Art of Racing in the Rain, really mean to you?”
I think after some discussion, we all came to the conclusion that yes…life is full of steep climbs, sharp turns, sudden obstacles in our path and breakdowns occasionally….(Rain) But that inevitably, it is up to us to take charge of our lives. We have to take responsibility for the outcome. To be positive and persevere and learn to enjoy each moment and then crossing the finish line we recognize, as Enzo so aptly stated, “My soul has learned what it came to learn, and all other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.”

1 comment :

*Kelly* said...

PERFECT book review Karen, you weaved our discussion, the books plot and many of our favorite quotes together flawlessly. YOU are truly a master of words!
XoXo, thank you for all your time and effort that went into this supurb review!