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Customer Review

1,376 of 1,437 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Characters you care about, a story that grabs you -- maybe more dogs should write novels, May 13, 2008
This review is from: The Art of Racing in the Rain (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-10 of 45 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 24, 2008 12:11:05 PM PDT
librarylady says:
Personally, I think this reviewer should write his own book. I enjoyed the review so much, I will order the book.
A librarian in North Carolina

Posted on Sep 25, 2008 12:55:39 PM PDT
This is an excellent review...you have a real command for language and I agree with the poster above- you should write your own book!! Anyway, I am hosting my book-club's next meeting and have selected this book for the group to read. I'm really looking forward to it!

Posted on Sep 25, 2008 12:56:49 PM PDT
Scratch my last comment because I just read your profile and, as you may know, you're already an author. Kudos!

Posted on Oct 24, 2008 2:15:43 PM PDT
Nancy Mc says:
The comments on this review are too damn funny. I thought the same thing - and lo and behold!
I guess it was OK for him to quit his day job.

Posted on Nov 10, 2008 12:34:57 PM PST
CorpHo says:
Don't worry, I'm not here to bash you. I was just struck by your comment regarding your intense dislike for "The Giving Tree". It just sounded like someone saying, "I hate breathing air." That is all.

Posted on Dec 16, 2008 5:43:55 AM PST
Fresh Pie says:
Great review Jesse, and we share another favorite book, The Queen's Gambit, which oddly came to mind a few time as I read
this. Maybe not odd actually. Perhaps Enzo is the Rocky for "pet people". ;)

Posted on May 22, 2009 12:43:36 AM PDT
Lauragais says:
what can I add to the raving reviews you received from your readers already?
I can add that your review helped me decide what to give to a dog-breeding friend, but also that I will add your own books to my reading list!
Thank you for your first-rate review.

Posted on Jun 25, 2009 10:08:25 AM PDT
I was hooked when I listened to the video on Amazon.com and then I read the blurb and discovered it was about sports (yuk) but I figured that maybe like "War and Peace" where I skipped over all the war stuff to get on with the story, perhaps I could do the same with the car racing. Nah, I have other stuff to read this summer why waste my money on a book that would only get half read, I thought. Then I read Mr. Korbluth's review. Wow! Not only will I go to my local bookstore to see if I can get this immediately, I'm going to check out what Mr. K's written. Mr. Stein should give Mr. K a part of the royalties for promoting his book! I will also tell our school librarian about this book and get her a copy for our shelves.

Posted on Aug 22, 2009 4:53:59 AM PDT
Beth Fryer says:
This is the first time I've ever read a review that made me click on "Read all my reviews.! I'll order the book - and when you write yours, I'll order that one too! Delightful!

Posted on Aug 25, 2009 9:40:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 25, 2009 9:46:52 AM PDT
Shanna Riley says:
Namaste and thank you for this wonderful review! I was not sure I wanted to read this book; tempted, but unsure. Like you, I'm not a consummate dog-lover (I'm a cat kind-of gal; I have five) and racing cars is about interesting to me as any other sport (all of which are, in my personal opinion, about as thrilling as watching paint dry). I wasn't sure I could get into the story but your review has convinced me otherwise. This sounds like a very enjoyable book and I love a story I can sink my teeth into; one that grabs hold and "doesn't let go" as they say. I want a book that I am sad to turn the last page of and put down. This sounds like - from your review, at least - that type of book. And so, it goes onto my Wish List so that I can buy it next payday and my fiance can scold me again for "buying more books when you already have dozens you've yet to read!" Meh, what's a rabid bookworm to do?

Like others, I also feel the urge to check out your other reviews and your own work. In fact, I will be clicking on that nifty "Interesting People" button on your profile that Amazon so helpfully provides. Thank you for sharing, and, most importantly, inspiring readers to pick up a book that may otherwise have been overlooked.
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