Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainIf you ever wondered what your dog is really thinking.. if you ever wanted to get inside the head of the family pet.. this may be the book for you.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a tragic and touching family drama told through the eyes of the family dog. 

Enzo is an elderly lab nearing the end of his days looking back on his life with his master Denny, a semi-pro racecar driver.  He has been a faithful and loving companion to his people:  Denny, his wife Eve and daughter Zoe. 

Enzo, stuffed into a doggie shell but practically human, occasionally gets annoyed by his frustrating lack of speech.  Instead he relies on big gestures to communicate- barking, peeing on the floor, etc.  Denny usually knows what point he’s trying to get across.  He almost always guesses correctly.  

And Enzo’s voice isn’t very dog-like, but I guess that’s because he watches TV all day.  This makes him a pretty well educated pooch.  From watching a documentary about evolution he is convinced he will come back to this world as a human after he dies.  A human with speech!  And thumbs!!  He is ready.  Bring it on! 

The story is really more about Enzo’s people than it is about dogs.  Denny falls in love, marries, has a daughter.  The little family suffers through a huge medical drama and loss, and Enzo, the faithful companion, is there for all of it.

DSCN8784The only issue I had with The Art of Racing in the Rain is a small one- dogs are smart, but they can’t go everywhere, so how can a dog narrator know what goes on in a courtroom?  Or a hospital?   But I forgave that small problem, suspended reality, and enjoyed the story. 

This is a sweet book; at times comic but also sad.  Wonderful and very readable.  Unputdownable (I read the bulk of it in one sitting).   I enjoyed getting a dog’s perspective on human life, love and family.   I shed a couple of tears, and laughed out loud.  It’s like that- happy/sad, funny/serious.  It’s the most human dog book I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Highly recommended.

I reviewed this book as part of Jennifer’s Dog Days of Summer.

Now I think I’ll go hug my puppy.

42 Responses

  1. I really loved this book too. I agree that dogs don’t and can’t go everywhere with their humans, but I think Stein set it up enough in the beginning to show that Denny talked to his dog about everything, including racing. I could sort of see that he would have talked about those other events with his doggie companion.

    • I could see it too.. but more like “Oh Enzo, I had a really bad day” not “the attorney said this, and the in-laws said that” etc. Anyway, it was just a small little thing that bothered me, slightly. Not really a big deal. I loved the book.

  2. psst. I read this for dog days of summer too!

  3. I think Enzo picked up all that information from being very observant and listening. I loved the book and Enzo. Great review!

  4. I thought this book was okay but then when I got towards the end, Stein really brought it home for me. I ended up really liking this one.

    I hear ya on what you said about a dog not being able to go everywhere but Denny talked out loud a lot so it’s no wonder that Enzo knew everything that was going on.

    Plus, haven’t you ever just looked at a pet and seen that they “get” you even though no words are spoken? My cat and I were that way. I could look at him and think “boy is this cat pissy” and off he’d swagger.

    • My dog picks up on my emotions, definitely. We have a connection like that.

      I didn’t like the very very end (with the boy in Italy).

  5. I couldn’t get into this for some reason. By all accounts, I should have. I’m a dog person and a people person. I love sappy books bu it just didn’t stick., i think I might need to go back at some point and read it at a different place in my life because everyone I know LOVED it!

  6. Great review, Lisa. I saw his over knowledge of the courtroom and hospitals as his imagination at work after watching TV, so I forgave that, too.

    What are your feelings about the last three pages? I absolutely enjoyed and loved this book until those last three pages. Had the book ended without them, it would have been near Nirvana for me. I’ll be writing about that in my review.

    Thank you so much for taking part in my Dog Days of Summer theme week!

    • Jen, I totally agree. It was too much. For me it would have been a better book without the last part. I’ve read where some people loved the ending. I chose not to write about it in the review because it didn’t actually spoil the book for me. But I thought it was ridiculous and I wished it wasn’t there. Maybe if the kid had had a different name and there was the little nagging thought in the back of Zoe and Denny’s minds… but the same name and the same coloring, etc? No.

  7. I have been wanting to read this book for awhile now. It sounds like a really great story, and I love the fact that it is told from the point of a dog. Great review, I will be looking forward to it. Thanks!

  8. I adored this book, too. I remembered Enzo saying something about how he was able to tell us what happened at the hospital and courtoom…so I looked for it….end of chapter 33. He says it’s a “reconsturction based on information compiled by me from secondhand knowledge, overheard conversations, and established legal practices as I have gleaned from various television shows…”

    Love Enzo and this book! Your review was good.

  9. I’ve heard such good things about this one, but I think having the dog tell the story of the courtroom might annoy me as well. Great review!

  10. Am I remembering this incorrectly. Doesn’t Enzo say something about not being able to be in the courtroom so he is only relaying what he heard?…oops…just saw where Valerie pointed it out. Sorry.

    I loved this book too. When I was reading it (my review for Dog Days of Summer will be up tomorrow) and crying, my dogs both came over to me and Iooked at them and said, “I know you’re in there; I promise I know you are.” And I think I make a better effort to interpret what they try to tell me now.

    While my “rational” mind tells me it’s all fiction, the part of my brain that adores my dogs simply wants to believe…maybe this is my adult version of Santa Claus! 😉

    • Yes, I know Enzo says (thinks?) something about piecing it all together from overheard conversations and etc. But he sure remembered a lot of details 🙂

      I’d love to think my dog understands me, and vice versa.

  11. This sounds like a great book! And that means I’ve to have this in my pile. 😉

  12. huh – I totally missed wondering abt how Enzo knew the courtroom scene. And I TOTALLY ADORED the ending! oh well. It’s still one of the sweetest cry-happy books I’ve read this year. 🙂

  13. Lisa, this is the second review I’ve read about this book recently. It sounds very touching. I am a dog person (and a cat person) and would probably enjoy this book greatly.

    Your review is excellent. You definitely have a way with words.

  14. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this book. Enzo stole my heart; great review.

  15. I can’t wait to read this book. I don’t have it yet, but it’s definitely on my list. Everyone seems to love it!

  16. Great review. I really loved this book – it hit some sort of emotional cord with me and made me cry like a baby the last two chapters. The women in my book club also enjoyed it!

  17. I’ve been meaning to read this book for so long it’s getting embarassing! I just gave you a blog award!

  18. […] reviewing this book toward the end of the week, so why not check out what she has to say first?  Here is a link to her […]

  19. I’m not gonna lie, this book made me cry quite a lot at the end. I think it is one of the best books I’ve read this year, if not the best.

  20. […] post on Lit and Life Valerie’s post on Life is a Patchwork Quilt Lisa’s post on Books on the Brain Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit Susan from Carlina Gal Literary Cafe Tokemise from By Hook or by […]

  21. I read this book too for Dogs Days of Summer you can read my review there. I enjoyed reading the part when he thinks he human. Now I wonder what my puppy thinks.

  22. […] post on Books on the Brain Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit Susan from Carlina Gal Literary Cafe Jen from Jen’s Book […]

  23. i’ve seen this one all around the book blogs…and didn’t know much about it until your review! i think i’ll pick it up for my mom for christmas–she is such a dog person and truly felt that our old dog, abby, her ‘third’ baby. 🙂

  24. […] Weblog, The Bluestocking Society, Book Chatter and Other Stuff, Book Nook Club, Booking Mama, Books on the Brain, Care’s Online Book Club Ex Libris, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, Hey Lady! Whatcha […]


  26. […] Reviewed By:Carolina Gal’s Literary CafeBooks on the BrainJen’s Book ThoughtsThe Literate HousewifeFyrefly’s Blog Copyright of Serena M. […]

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