The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein follows the narrator, Enzo, and incredibly intelligent, observant and philosophical dog, as he contemplates his life on his deathbed.
The small family Enzo is part of is comprised of Denny, Eve, Denny’s wife and their daughter Zoë. At the beginning of the book he is lying on the floor, dying. He is an old dog and while he is waiting for Denny to come home and find him. It is incredibly sad, but also in an odd way happy, because Enzo is excited to die so doesn’t have to feel pain and so he can be reincarnated as a man. After Denny comes home, Enzo reviews his entire life, starting with when he was a puppy. While most of the book is rather depressing, there ares some brief moments of humor and happiness.
The perspective from which the novel is written from is fascinating. The reader gets to see the life of a human through the eyes of a dog. The unique perspective also allows Enzo to show his view on life. It is a first person narrative, so the reader can see the thoughts and desires of this clever dog.
The opening lines are especially powerful. Enzo starts by saying, “Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question” (Stein 1). Even though he is a dog, Enzo believes that, “[his] soul is very human” (3). So, when Enzo starts the book saying that he can only communicate with grand gestures, Enzo is not only referring to himself, but to all humans as well. This conveys how all humans are constantly fighting to be heard and recognized in their lives. In order to stand out and be heard, they must be “melodramatic” and do something “grand in nature.”
Much of this book is made up of metaphors and symbols, and is full of ideas with double meanings. One of the main metaphors that exists throughout the book is the metaphor of racing. Denny is a semi-professional race car driver and always tells Enzo about “racing in the rain.” However when Denny talks about “racing in the rain” he is talking about the rain both metaphorically and literally. Driving in the rain can be difficult, and I think that “racing in the rain” is a metaphor for persevering through difficulties.
As I stated before, Enzo is very philosophical, intellectual and observant. It is his intellect and his observant nature (and also the help of “[his] little black nose that is leathery and cute” [39-40]) that helps him identify something in Eve’s brain that would have a profound impact on the lives of the Swift family. This moment is a good example of the foreshadowing present in the book, but it also shows how Enzo is limited in ways he can express himself. Because he lacks a “facile tongue” (40), Enzo is unable to tell anyone about Eve’s condition and as a result, her predicament worsens.
Despite all of the tragedy already introduced a third of the way through the novel, Enzo still finds ways to brighten the scene with his humor. One of my favorite examples of Enzo’s humor is when he is describing why dogs are closer related to humans than monkeys. He insults monkeys and then to prove his reasoning he says, “The full moon rises. The fog clings to the lowest branches of the spruce trees. The man steps out of the darkest corner of the forest and finds himself transformed into…
I think not” (21).
The chapter ends there and I found Enzo’s dry humor combined by the sudden ending of the chapter hilarious.
This book is similar to A Dog’s Purpose, one of my favorite books. Both books are told from a dog’s perspective as he studies his purpose in life. They also have ideas of reincarnation in them. So far I have really enjoyed this book and hope to continue to discover more about this fascinating and tragic story.