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on May 13, 2008
I have finally found a new novel I can stand to read.

To my great astonishment, it's told by a dog. (I'm not a pet-lover).

It contains many insights about car racing. (I have no interest in car racing, and I look askance at sports analogies.)

And the author has described it as "Jonathan Livingston Seagull' for dogs." (That book is tied with 'The Giving Tree' as my Least Favorite Ever.)

So what do I find to praise?

The concept: "When a dog is finished living his lifetimes as a dog, his next incarnation will be as a man." Not all dogs. Only those who are ready. Enzo, a shepherd-poodle-terrier mix, is ready.

Enzo has spent years watching daytime TV, mostly documentaries and the Weather Channel (It's "not about weather, it is about the world"). And because Denny Swift, his owner, is a mechanic who's training to race cars, he and Enzo watch countless hours of race footage. So Enzo knows about the world beyond the Swift home near Seattle.

The situation is equally appealing: Enzo is old, facing death. While he has learned from racing movies to forget the past and live in the moment, this is his time to remember. And he can remember objectively --- as a dog, his senses are sharper, his emotions less complicated. With the clarity of a Buddha, Enzo can see. And he can listen: "I never interrupt, I never deflect the conversation with a comment of my own." So he's quite the knowing narrator.

And then the story: a happy family, brimming with good feeling and ambitious dreams. Denny loves Enzo like a son. Denny loves his wife Eve, who works for a big retail company that "provided us with money and health insurance." And Denny lives for Zoe, their daughter. Then Enzo smells something bad happening in Eve --- the dog is always the first to know --- and you start to brace yourself. But not enough, not nearly enough. Bad things happen to good people in this novel, and then worse things, and soon you are so angry, so hurt, so tear-stained and concerned that you do not think for one second to step back and say, hey, wait, this is just a story! A shaggy dog story, at that!

It works out. This is fiction, of course it works out. Not without cost to the characters and the reader. But the payoff is considerable --- a story that commands you to keep going, ideas that are a lot smarter than the treacle Garth Stein could have served up.

"How difficult it must be to be a person." Enzo nails that. "To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live." Who wouldn't? "Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end." And there's more --- yeah, this could be summer reading in progressive high schools some day.

Or you could take a refresher course now in learning how to race in the rain.

Why wait?
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on June 15, 2008
Since I am a young teenager, you might think it doesn't mean much for me to say that this is the best book ever. But I've read a pretty good amount of books for someone my age. When I read this book, I felt a connection with it that I haven't felt with any other book. It made me feel the pain, the happiness, the sadness, and the humor in the characters lives. I cried at two points in the book because of the way the author was able describe it. It wasn't that it was sad, it was just that it was told in such a beautiful and truthful way. Obviously, you might say that a dog could not think like a human, so how could it be truthful. But this book is not about what real dogs think. It's about spiritual and emotional truths. Doesn't anyone remember Charlotte's Web? Enzo says, "My intent, here, is to tell our story in a dramatically truthful way. While the facts may be less than accurate, please understand that the emotion is true. The intent is true. And, dramatically speaking, intention is everything."

Because I'm 12, I did have to discuss the book with my parents. I needed to ask questions about the custody battle and Eve's sickness. I recommend this book to anyone who is open to the ideas of creating your own life and not being a victim. Anyone who thinks this book has anything to do with bad luck (I've seen some of the reviews) is really missing the message. There is nothing random. As Enzo says, we are all extensions of everything. Where you focus your energy is what happens in your life. What happens in the end is what has to happen. It is the only true ending that fits the whole buildup of where Denny and Enzo placed their energy.
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on May 18, 2008
I might secretly be a dog person, or maybe subconsciously ... but if you were to ask me I would tell you I'm not a dog person. Oh, but how I loved Enzo.

On the eve of his death, Enzo (a dog) tells what amounts to his master's life story. Stein's attention to detail was amazing - the book read like it was written by somebody who took the time to stop and think "what would a dog feel/do in this situation?" As a result, Enzo is memorable and lovable. He's at once a crotchety old man, and an innocent youth. He's wise, he's naive, and he is devoted.

I'm not going to lie to you, this book is very sad. But it is also laugh out loud funny at times, and filled with love, devotion, philosophy and hopefulness.

It's a beautiful book and definitely one of my favorites of the year.
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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2008
I enjoyed THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, a book that reminds me of the work of Mitch Albom or Nicholas Sparks. This is essentially the story of one man's life struggle, as seen from the perspective of the family dog. The dog, named Enzo, is as intelligent as a human being, and pretty much thinks like one. Most of the humor of the book comes from Enzo's unhappiness with his dog status, and his intense desire to be a human in the next life.

The actual plot of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, however, revolves around Enzo's master Denny, who suffers a series of family tragedies. I personally found Denny's story a bit on the melodramatic side (nothing about this book is particularly subtle), but Enzo's presence makes this novel more original and fresh than it otherwise would be. The ending of this book struck me as a bit too Hollywood, but parts of this book are emotionally touching.

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is easy to read, and you can finish it in one sitting. There's quite a bit of crude humor in this novel, but I think most people will enjoy it. If you think Mitch Albom and Nicholas Sparks are pure schmaltz, you will no doubt think the same thing about this novel. But if you like short, sentimental stories, I think this book is definitely worth your time.
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VINE VOICEon May 14, 2008
I picked The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein simply because, being a dog lover and seeing the dog on the cover, I couldn't resist. It was one of those moments, as a reader, you'll remember for a while. What a wonderful book.

Enzo, the narrator, is a dog and Enzo wants nothing more than to be a man. Here is the only aspect of the book I might doubt. Anyone who is aware of "man's" human nature knows that dogs, as a creature, are much nobler. To become a man might not be an upward move. Nuff said there.

Enzo is part of a happy family, Denny, the racer; Denny's wife Eve, and his daughter Zoe. Life is good. But then Eve develops cancer and decides to remove herself to her parents home along with Zoe. In the end, the parents of Eve decide to challenge Denny for custody to Zoe and do so in a manner that isn't befitting grandparents.

This book will tear at you in so many ways and on so many levels. Without giving too much away let me just say that I haven't felt compelled to tear up so often by a book in a long time. Reading The Art of Racing in the Rain is like sitting through Old Yeller as a young boy and not crying. But don't let me scare you off. The Art of Racing is a book you've got to read, especially if you love dogs (or animals in general). With a wonderful storyline and characters you become attached to this book is cathartic.

Garth Stein is to be congratulated on writing a book that is sure to become a classic.
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on May 13, 2008
This morning, my wife and I learned that our son has been diagnosed with speech delay. He is our first child, and we've never been through something like this before. It is easily one of the most difficult days of my life.

This evening, after we put him to bed, I settled into the last 100 pages of Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. The story concerns one family's near total collapse as seen through the eyes of the family dog, Enzo. It is filled with more emotion than any other novel I have read recently, and it shines with wit, humor, and poignancy.

Narrated by Enzo the dog, we are brought into the home of the Swifts -- Denny, Eve, and Zoe -- as Denny works to realize his dream to become a race car driver. Soon though, we learn that Eve has cancer and is going to die. Denny, who possesses tremendous compassion, patience, and selflessness, gives up his dream to race cars in order to take care of Eve in her final months.

But Garth Stein ratchets the emotional screws tighter, and Eve chooses to leave Denny and live with her parents in her final months. To make matters worse, she takes Zoe with her, and Denny is left alone with Enzo.

Just when Denny's situation can't get any worse, it does. His in-laws inform him that they're going to file for custody of his daughter, and they intend to fight him brutally in court to do so.

It would be wrong to give too much of the second half of this novel away, but let me just say this: if this novel doesn't make you cry, you should have someone check your heart to see if it's still beating.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is easily one of the most human and compassionate novels I've read in a long time. Harper Executive Editor Jennifer Barth compares it to Charlotte's Web, an appropriate choice for a lot of reasons. If I had to draw a comparison, I'd pick Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men... by virtue of the fact that both novels are short, poignant, sad, funny, and ultimately brilliant. And both stories are models of grace under pressure.

Congratulations to everyone at Harper and to the folks at Folio Literary Management for bringing this novel to publication. And congratulations most of all to Garth Stein.

This is an outstanding novel, and I highly recommend it.

Stacey Cochran
Author of CLAWS: A Suspense Novel
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on May 17, 2008
I stopped at Starbucks on my way to jury duty, for coffee and something sweet to get me through. I saw this book and, being a dog lover, the cover caught my eye. I read the flyleaf and had to have it. This is as close to a perfect story as I've read in a long time. Yes, the narrator is a dog who is wiser than most of us; yes, Denny is a zen-type race car driver (and I'm bored silly by the entire "sport" of car racing); yes, all sorts of bad luck is heaped upon Denny. With all that I was caught up in the story and believed every word as true and in the very realest sense it is. I've recommended it to all my friends and I recommend it to you too.
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on August 13, 2008
I would call this a perfect novel for the following reasons.
1. The unique choice of narrator (the dog) which, once you get over the gimmick, is handled with grace and aplomb and not at all off-putting
2. The language is delicious, without a word too many or too few. The author understates the action just enough that his words are each filled with poignancy and gravitas
3. The plot, which winds through several permutations, each unexpected but perfectly believable
4. The characters, all of whom are well-written and three-dimensional
5. The message, which is one of patience, balance, loyalty and unconditional love

I read this book in one sitting, unable to take a break once I started. There were several moments where it moved me to tears, and the last few chapters had me weeping openly. The experience was cathartic and immensely rewarding.... and that, I contend, is perfection.
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on August 30, 2009
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a very lighthearted fun read! It is the kind of book I would want to curl up with and read all day on a cold fall day. It is a common story of a family's struggle to stay together and get through tough times, but it takes a unique angle with Enzo as our narrator. Enzo reminds any dog lover of the things they truly believe go on in their own dogs head. The passage about humans descending from monkeys and dogs not having thumbs (chapters 4-6) made me laugh out loud becuase that is a common conversation we have with our own dog...oh the things she could do with opposable thumbs! This book is for dog and non-dog lovers though because it is really about what it is to be human and in the end it seems Enzo understands that better than some of the people in his life. The ending was a bit too Disney for me. I would have preferred an ending where I was left to my own imagination of Enzo's future life. All in all though I would recommend this to anyone looking for a lighthearted and quick read.
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on May 26, 2008
I laughed and cried while reading this book. Rooted for Enzo and his family throughout the read. This is such a great book, told with humor and humanity and I highly recommend this to any pet parent who loves their pets and just knows your buddy is more human than most humans. Definitely recommend this book.
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