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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of those books where the author has somehow struck a nerve with a lot of people, and I've been meaning to review this book for over a month.  A decade before this book came out, the author (who was a screenwriter at the time) saw a film set in Mongolia called "State of Dogs."  This film showed the Mongolian belief that a dog will return in its next reincarnation as a man.    Enzo is our dog, a mixed-breed with some wiry hair that possibly indicates a bit of terrier.  Enzo is also our narrator, so we see everything through his innocent eyes.  Enzo loves to watch TV, including the National Geographic channel.  Enzo wishes he had opposable thumbs, and so, so wishes he could talk.  He wants to be human even though it would mean adopting the inferior human body, and he is consumed with love for his people, especially Denny, his racecar-driving owner, and Denny's little girl Zoe.  There's a lot of racecar driving trivia in this book.  While i don't like car racing, I still loved this book, and this sentiment was repeated many times by other readers in my book club.  There are tragedies compiled on top of each other in this story, and this bothered some members of our book club.  But the Buddhist principals are all here, and they are part of the author's belief system;  the suffering in life, and the stripping away of material things, for example.  Denny must practice patience, have faith, forbear the wrongs of others, be tolerant and most importantly, accept his own role in and responsibility for his circumstances, all part of the basic Buddhist tenet.   Although the Buddhist principals are not explained outright, we travel through many of them in this book.  Enzo himself goes through a transformation and finds ways to help his circumstances.  He also has his own personal demons, including some of his own making (as we all do).  Yes, he is on watch for crows and a certain stuffed zebra.  It made me think of other reincarnation-related novels and short stories, such as "Breakfast with Buddha" and "You Are not Here" although this book is unique until itself, and possibly the best of them.  Several people in book club said they looked differently at their dogs after reading this book.  There are lots of good author interviews on itunes, by the way.  p.s.  The author was a race car driver years ago, who also wrecked while racing in the rain.

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