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Racing in the Rain: My Life As a Dog

Review

Racing in the Rain: My Life As a Dog

A race car driver’s beloved pet imparts wisdom and life lessons in retelling his own story from a canine perspective. With wit and peculiar charm, Enzo tells of the stages of a dog’s life and the wonderful and distressing days spent with his hero, Denny Swift --- a struggling race car driver supporting a young family, with a sick wife. From the day they met, Denny recognized in Enzo unusual spirit and intelligence, and the lab-terrier mix does indeed believe he has a human soul.

Enzo’s story begins with recollections of his puppy days and sweet remembrances of littermates, wondering at times who his real father was. His most profound memory, however, is the day he met his master, the man who would become his lifelong hero and idol. Always thoughtful and considerate of Enzo’s feelings, Denny is an unusual man. He’s a talented race car driver who speaks to his dog as he would a person. Denny’s open-mindedness and respect allow Enzo to reach his full potential, both as a unique being and as a human companion, even while Enzo recognizes that his bodily limitations make him seem less than human.

Enzo and Denny certainly have a certain synergy, and this can be a powerful, positive thing.  They understand each other perfectly, and from day one, Enzo accepts the position of being Denny’s comforter and guide. He’s front and center whenever Denny struggles in his home life or career, and there are times when Enzo struggles too. He has difficulty accepting change, largely because he enjoyed their period of co-bachelorhood so much.

The first human to enter Enzo’s inner circle is Eve, a woman who Denny is crazy about --- instantly. Before long, they are married, leaving Enzo a resentful outsider with an invader to contend with. Yet, while Enzo reacts tentatively to Eve, his uncertainty fades because he respects his master so much. Seeing Denny as a role model makes Enzo realize he should do better than to hold a grudge, and it is this knowing that allows him to set aside his own feelings and make every possible attempt to make the best of his situation.

The arrival of Denny’s new baby brings change but teaches Enzo what family really means. Zoe’s birth is momentous, the most exciting event in Enzo’s short life, and after a few years, the dog and girl are the best of friends. Enzo will do absolutely anything --- even humiliating things --- to please her. Through the years, he gains wisdom and grows emotionally, surprising everyone and becoming the key to helping Denny through his many courageous struggles and life challenges.

Enzo’s unique wisdom is expressed constantly throughout the novel, and he makes a comical and immensely charming character throughout. Readers will get a kick out of the way he reasons and sees situations, and though his wisdom is largely taken from his master, much of it is undeniably Enzo. He is a genuine soul with real strength of character, innocence and spirit, a creature who spends his free time watching television and directing his attention at thoughtful programs that enhance his knowledge and growth. He watches the Weather Channel while Denny is away, but usually sticks to racing programs and interesting documentaries. One Mongolian documentary ends up having a profound effect on him, leaving him convinced of the truth of karmic justice and the idea that he’ll one day be reincarnated as a human.

Enzo provides analogies on racing that are very good life lessons. These will certainly impress young readers and provide thoughtful encouragement and a positive way of thinking. Some of Enzo’s gems:

“There is no dishonor in losing the race…only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

“To finish first, you must first finish.”

“It’s never too late.”

“No race has ever been won in the first turn…but plenty of races have been lost there.”

Those who are unfamiliar with THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN may not be aware that RACING IN THE RAIN is a children’s version of Garth Stein’s bestseller, which was one of my favorite books of 2008. The new novel is every bit as charming and touching as the adult one, with minor changes made to remove sensitive or explicit material. While perfectly suitable for young people, the book will be enjoyable for readers of any age, and I would highly encourage anyone to buy it, either for yourself or for a loved one. You won’t regret it. It’s definitely one of the top children’s books of the year.

Reviewed by on May 3, 2011

Racing in the Rain: My Life As a Dog
by Garth Stein

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2011
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0062015761
  • ISBN-13: 9780062015761