The Art of Racing in the Rain is a thorougly moving and indefinately powerful novel told from the point of view of a beloved golden retriever, Enzo. Enzo is an observant and loyal canine who observes his master, Denny, as he struggle through his dreams of becoming a professional racer, the death of his wife, and the difficulty of raising his young daughter as a single dad. The story begins with Enzo on his deathbed as he recollects the memories and characters of his short and chaotic life. Enzo refers to Denny's girlfriend and later his wife, Eve, as the "interloper." He eventually, however, learns to love and protect her as well. Enzo's true test of loyalty comes when Eve asks him to protect the family when she gives birth to Zoe. Unexpectedly, Eve dies, leaving Denny devastated. Enzo stands by his master during the three year battle between Denny and Eve's parents for custody of Zoe.
Throughout his life, Enzo is frustrated by his lack of thumbs and the fact that he cannot speak. More often than not, Enzo complains to himself, "Gestures are all I have." An unending silence, however, allows Enzo to understand the need for listening as well as more time to observe the tedious ways of human life. He notes, "They're responders and reactors, not independent thinkers." He often notices that people cling to rituals and an unnecesarily stressful schedule. With their overbearing agenda, people lack the time to notice the small yet powerful beauties in life. For example, Enzo admires the human figure in ways that only artists ever seem to understand. As he observes Denny's movements, he states, "He is so brilliant. He shines. He's beautiful with his hands that grab things and his tongue that says things and the way he stands and chews his food for so long, mashing it into a paste befreo he swallows."
Also, the many hours of watching television with Denny teach Enzo valuable lessons. He knows that life, unlike car racing, is not about finishing first. Rather, it is about taking what has happend and leaving it behind you and taking the lead in what lies in ahead. Enzo learns what it takes to be a kind and compassionate human and cannot wait to be reincarnated as one. He looks forward to one day meeting Denny on the street in his human form.
As he reflects on the recollections of his short life, Enzo ponders the most important of the things he has learned from observing humans. Among Enzo's reflections are "sometimes we simply have to believe" and "that which you manifest is before you." At the end of the novel, Denny has learned as much from Enzo as Enzo has learned from him.
1. The Art of Racing in the Rain is not the typical "dog story" told from the perspective of a master who inevitably loses his pet during a tearful ending. Rather, this novel narrated by the dog himself. If you were to have a dog describe your life after observing your habits and mannerisms for a lifetime, what do you think he would have learned? What would he have to say about your priorities or daily rythums? Your family? Your attitude and outlook on life? Is this what you want your life to be seen as?
2. Enzo is able to learn a lot of valuable lessons from observing the art of racing with Denny. As Enzo ponders Denny's technique on a Florida track, he acknowledges one important part of racing. He states, "When a driver reacts, it's important to remember that a car is only as good as its tires. If the tires lose traction, nothing else matters." This statement can be interpreted many ways, depending on your personal background, memories, and history. What does this observation mean to you? What was one specific experience where you could directly relate to what Enzo says?