Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book review: The Art of Racing the Rain by Garth Stein

Lately I have been buying sad books.  Don't ask me why; dunno.  It has been a rough first part of the year work and health-wise but the weather is improving; I even gardened a little.  But it seems that the poignant books are making their way home with me.  And so it is or was with this title, The Art of Racing the Rain.  It's a book written from a pet dog's point  of view.  The book has its' lighter moments and its' unbelievable moments but it is heart-wrenching and shows the deviousness of the human hearts of the antagonists when their collective malicious hearts set out to take away everything the dog's owner holds dear. 

There was one particular "chapter" that moved me in a special way; maybe because of the loss of my own canine companion.  I like the philosophical sense behind this particular passage, as Enzo, the narrator and main character, reflects on the next life.  Well, his next life and the possibility:

"In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave.  The dog's master whispers into the dog's ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life.  Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain  his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog's soul is freed to travel the land, to run the high desert plains for as long as it would like.

I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it is true.  Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.

I am ready."    ~~ Chapter 18 ~~ 

The faithfulness of a dog.  Well, there is nothing like it.  It is unconditional and steadfast.  They love you no matter what kind of day you have had and they look after you when you don't notice.  The perspective the author gave Enzo is so plausible.  Looking back I now understand some of Dragon's behaviors and those memories are endearing having read this book.

I won't tell you how it ends, but I encourage you to read it.  If anything you will learn how manipulative some people can be to make others miserable and try to take all they value away.  Maybe you know already; most of us do, but it's a different angle and honestly, we don't know ALL the angles of life.

When is a dog not a dog?  I suggest you read the book and find out.

I think we could all benefit from an Enzo.


Picture is from


Anonymous said...

What a great title and I love this chapter ....For some reason it reminded me of Africa or about the vision I have what Africa is like...the hills...the vastness....dry land and silence...I always fall in love with dogs very seems they always want so little and give so much...what a comforting and beautiful thought of a dog's soul running free over hills, the desert plains...thanks for sharing this book with us, the world. and me.

Kathy said...

Thanks for this. I actually bought this book sometime last year after someone recommended it, but it must have gotten lost in the piles of books to read around here. I will have to look for it.

Dogs are extraordinary companions. Don't know what I'd do right now without Gracie.

Lisa Fox said...

As you may know, Catherine, I don't understand the whole "dog thing." [I'm handicapped as a cat person.] But I can well imagine you are still working through Dragon's death, and I wish you peace.
Me ... I'm keeping what feels like a "death watch" on my 19-yr-old cat.

I have no doubt that our animal companions have a special life and "afterlife."

And that we who love them have hearts ready to be broken, knowing -- as we do -- that we will probably outlive them.

Anonymous said...

My son loved, loved, loved this one. Since he loves racing and would like to have an Enzo in his life. He's 38 and is picky about what's out there to read.

Ann M.