“The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

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I’m sure you have experienced the second-to-none feeling of morbid despair which goes hand in hand with the realization that there are 75 minutes left till class is over, even though in your mind half an hour should have passed by already. This tedium can be summarized in one word: Physics. I like studying Physics, solving problems, and learning about the laws which make the existence of the whole universe possible, but I abhor the very notion of having to listen to my teacher regurgitating the new lesson. So, as any bookworm would do, I conceal the book I am currently reading behind my textbook and abscond from the stagnant, crammed classroom into the rapture of a brilliant novel. You can’t hold me culpable!

Last Monday, though, little did I know what was awaiting me as I ensconced myself and submerged in between the pages of my book, invisible from the teacher’s desk. Suddenly, 10 more minutes to go till the end of class, a muffled sob reverberated in the room. And all eyes turned on me. And what did they see ? Yep! You guessed it. A girl, weeping silently over her Physics textbook. If they didn’t think me a freak till them, I bet they do now! Okay, laugh all you want at my misery, but once you read “The Art of Racing in the Rain” you’d comprehend why I couldn’t keep myself from shedding tears even though it was blatant from the first chapter onwards how it was going to end.

The book encapsulates the life of Enzo – a dog. Enzo is incongruous from the rest of his species. “Everyone knows that shepherds and poodles aren’t especially smart. They’re responders and reactors, not independent thinkers… Sure, they’re clever and quick, but they don’t think outside the box; they’re all about convention” Not only is he a free-thinker, but also a profound philosopher. He watches TV in order to educate himself. He tried to teach himself to read and succeeded in distinguishing between the “pull” and “push” signs on doors.  He despises monkeys because of their opposable thumbs and envies all humans for the deftness of their tongues.

On the eve of his death, Enzo – this resplendent dog, takes stock of his life and everything that befell him and his family. He recalls all the mirth and joy, all the anguish and woe he has witnessed, as he ponders over the deep insight he has gained into the human soul and conscience and the meaning of one’s life. Contrary to what you and I would assume, Enzo is not doleful about the impending end of his life. Actually, he has been anticipating it for a while now. “I’m old. And while I’m very capable of getting older, that’s not the way I want to go out” He believes in reincarnation and is quite certain (due to a Mongolian documentary show he once saw on TV) that once his existence as a dog is relinquished, his soul would find shelter in a human body. As he shares with us his journey through life he finds out that “we are all afforded our physical existence so we can learn about ourselves”, that “inside each of us reasides the truth, the absolute thruth. But sometimes it is hidden in a hall of mirrors. Sometimes we believe we are viewing the real thing when in fact we are viewing a facsimilie, a distortion” and last but not least that “Fate is a mean bitch of lab”. In the end “he died because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned about what it came to learn, and then was free to leave”.

The book is replete with splendid thoughts and outstanding epiphanies but what struck me most is the parallels Enzo draws between life and racing. His best friend and master, Denny, is a car racer and they spend together countless days watching Formula 1 shows and analyzing recordings of Denny’s old races. Enzo is proficient in the ways and means of driving. However, unlike humans, he doesn’t see racing as part of life. To him, racing is life. As a broad-minded and passionate creature, he does not succumb to the urge to label characters, activities and notions. Instead of looking for the controversy and contradiction in beliefs in inklings, he has devoted his whole life to reconciling the incompatibles. “I don’t understand why people insist on putting the concepts of evolution and creation against each other. Why can’t they see that spiritualism and science are one? That bodies evolve and souls evolve and the universe is a fluid that marries them both in a wonderful package called a human being. What’s wrong with that idea?”

Through the comparisons he makes between the art of racing and the feat of living, Enzo conveys inspiring ideas about the nature of control we have over our destinies. He points out that our choices and decisions do not affect solely us by the subtle implication that invisible strings attach us to every other creature in the universe, and a simple fidget of ours causes a ripple in the seeming respite of matter. Notwithstanding whether we acknowledge Fate, it is undeniably true that “That which you manifest is before you”  We have to try assiduously, to work diligently and to stubbornly strive towards our final destination, while suffering the outcomes and bearing the ramifications of those ignominious assaults and endless pursuits. And in the end, despite our burdensome struggles there are adventitious events and unforeseen obstacles that would bar our way to glory, happiness and victory.  Yet, “the race is long – to finish first, first you must finish.”

If you are a dog-lover, a F1 fanatic, or a wiseacre, you shouldn’t dither before grabbing and devouring “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. Provided you have a soft spot for kitties, their snake-like eyes and lethal claws, then you should put aside your prejudices and explore the life and wit of a remarkable dog. I’m positive that afterwards you would find puppies way more adorable than cats!

Mery

Mery

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One thought on ““The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

  1. I like your review very much even though I didnt like the book. I couldnt sympathize with any of the characters.

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