Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Author: Garth Stein
Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Description: Narrated by the family dog, this novel is the story of a family that hits a rough spot; the wife and mother dies of a brain tumor and the father is then hit with a child custody suit by his wife’s parents.   
Plot: This was the most depressing book I’ve read in a long while. The first sentence tells us that it’s the end of the dog’s life, so we know we’ll be witnessing the passing of a beloved pet. Add to that all the crushing blows that the protagonist, Denny, has to absorb, and you’re into a real downer.
Characters: The main concern, of course, is what the voice of a dog sounds like. I’m not sure Stein hit the right note here. The dog’s vocabulary is way bigger than mine (explained away by the fact that he watches TV all day, ha!). If the dog were really that smart, he would have easily figured out a way to communicate. Plus every now and then, he really does act like a dog—chasing critters, tearing things up, etc. So it comes across sort of like a savant voice: brilliant, yet out of control. It didn’t quite work for me.
Writing style: There’s a lot of philosophy here. Denny is a race car driver, and Enzo (the dog) derives much of his worldview from applying racing principles to life. There’s also Enzo’s idea that he will be reincarnated as a man, because he is “ready.”
Audience: People who like novels where things get as bad as they can possibly be, then come out improbably wonderfully in the end, combined with lots of information about car racing and some type of Eastern philosophy.
Wrap-up: I’m zero for three in the audience categories for this book, so guess what: I didn’t like it. 1.5/5*

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