It seems like a recipe for failure to have your storyline told by a family pet, expound on the sport of racecar driving, and top it off with the idea of reincarnation. The fact that this novel works is a testament to Garth Stein's skill as an author. The plot is crafted beautifully, the characters are well-written, and even if you think you don't like racecar driving, you may have that position swayed. The Art of Racing in the Rain should be on everyone's must-read list of the summer.
From the very first pages, you know that Enzo, the family dog, is going to die, but before he does this four-legged philosopher takes us on a journey of his life with Denny, his racecar driver owner. Enzo is quite assured he will be reincarnated into a human boy in the next life, so he is not worried; rather, he embraces the idea of death and meeting Denny again on equal footing, so to speak. The story is quite amazing and it all starts with how to race in the rain.
” 'Very gently. Like there are eggshells on your pedals,' Denny always says, 'and you don't want to break them. That's how you drive in the rain.' ”
Denny happens to be one of the best racers in the rain; he can beat any other driver on any track when it's raining. Other driver's panic, but Denny stays calm and that's what matters when you are going over a hundred miles an hour. It is also what matters as you go through life. Denny needs all the strength and control in the world to battle the death of his wife, Eve, to brain cancer, the scheming and lawsuits by Eve's grandparents in order to gain custody of Denny's only child, Zoe, and a falsely-manufactured child rape charge sought to ultimately destroy him and bleed him down to his last penny.
” 'What are you being arrested for?' Mike asked.
Denny looked to the officers, but they said nothing. They waited for Denny to answer the question.
'Rape of a child in the third degree,' Denny said.
'Felony rape,' one of the cops clarified.”
We don't see the thoughts in Denny's head, but through his actions Enzo comprehends everything. He also understands that he has to be strong for Denny, because he is all there is for the time being. Stein paints a picture so strong with emotion that it is hard to put this book down without a couple tears streaming down your face. The Art of Racing in the Rain makes us all want to be better racers. Life is not about the winners; it is about how you handle the course your given.