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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

Learning The Art of Racing

My goal this summer was to read over 50 books.  I achieved that by reading 50 ½ books, the half being on my way down to Baltimore. Of the many different beach reads, novels, mysteries and love stories, one particular book fell into my lounge chair: a story about true love, friendship, loyalty, humor and of course a little heartbreak. And the entire story is told by a protagonist who doesn’t even have thumbs—a dog. Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain has been out on the market since 2008 and was on the New York Times Best Selling List for 156 weeks.

The story comes from Enzo, an old, dying, dog who believes that if he is prepared, one day he will come back in his next life as a human. He tells the story of his master, Denny, a racecar driver waiting for his big break.  Denny and Enzo have been together since Denny’s early days and Enzo experiences everything along his side from marriage to fatherhood to losing loved ones and a major child custody battle.

Stein does an incredible job of using anthropomorphism, giving Enzo an incredible sense of humor about his problems in the human world.  He has a major, obsessive issue with not having opposable thumbs, especially when someone turns off the TV when they leave for work…he was planning on watching it all day.

I decided to write this review now, not because I haven’t been thinking of it all this time but because I saw this past holiday how the book touched so many others. My uncle recently lost his dog—but this was not just a dog.  My uncle has committed his life to raising this dog, and after 18 beautiful years together, she finally moved on.  My uncle, who ironically enough was also interested in racecars, was obviously devastated.  I had sent him The Art of Racing in the Rain just about a month earlier encouraging him to read it. Of course he hadn’t, but in his grief, he looked at the book and four hours later put it down laughing and in tears.  Still missing his own dog, he had finally at least found comfort

This was not the only incident that had occurred over the Thanksgiving break about this book. As I was riding the train back down to school, I looked over to my left side and there was a man reading the same novel laughing and tearing up at the same time.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is indeed about a dying dog, but Enzo gives us comfort in explaining why dogs are here, the purposes they serve for their masters and their families.  Enzo teaches us that we should not be sad when they leave us, because most of them are about to fulfill their own destiny; their purpose was just to help us find our own first.

For me most importantly, Enzo reminded me why we call dogs “a man’s best friend” and how very close to human they really are. I like to think that man’s closest relative is not the chimpanzee, as many people believe, but is, in fact, the dog. Enzo says, “I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.”

For anyone who is looking for a quick read, whether it be for comfort, joy, boredom or a race to finish a book list, I encourage you and everyone you know to pick up the most touching story I have read thus far. Garth Stein’s book will give you whatever it is you are looking to get out of his story. And in the words of Enzo ““Yes: the race is long—to finish first, first you must finish.”



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Learning The Art of Racing