I’m not a dog person, and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein made me want a dog. Enzo is an intensely likeable character, and still seems like a character you’d find in real life. I realize how ludicrous that sounds; of course no dog has the intelligence of Enzo (and trust me, I am constantly making fun of dog-people that think their dog is smart.) What I mean is that Enzo is a balanced character, loveable and good-natured, but full of idiosyncracies and with some faults, too. He’s not simply a human-being shoved into a dog’s body, though; his thoughts have qualities that even I would ascribe to dogs, eg. his intense loyalty to his owner Denny.
Mr. Stein has also done an excellent job developing the other characters in the novel. Most stories about a family and their dog are simple family adventures and childish hijinks, but The Art of Racing in the Rain follows a family through some very serious heartache. The story is intensly sad; without revealing too many spoilers, I’ll just say that Enzo sets the stage for this from the opening pages, as he discusses being put down. There are no major surprises in the plot (in fact, Enzo foreshadows most the plot far in advance), but the story is still gripping because of how attached you become to the characters.
I’ve heard others recommend this book because of their interest in race car driving – but I loved the book despite a complete lack of interest in racing. Considering my general disdain for dogs, plus my lack of interest in racing, that Garth Stein could make me love this book is a real testament to his abilities as a writer.
One more note: I actually listened to the audio recording of this book, which I thought had very good voice acting.