Caroline Dotson: 'Racing in the Rain' filled with human compassion

Caroline Dotson

Caroline Dotson's columns appear Wednesdays in the Craig Daily Press and Saturdays in the Saturday Morning Press.

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein topped the bestseller charts in July 2008. Stein has written a handful of other books, but this novel is his most notable work.

The narration is from the perspective of Enzo, an unusually intelligent yellow Lab-mix, who compares the world around him with various shows he sees on TV.

Enzo's owner, Denny, is a small-time racecar driver and customer service representative at a repair shop who leaves the television on whenever he is in not at their home in Seattle.

Denny watches car racing videos with Enzo and explains to him the art of car racing. Denny talks to Enzo like they are best friends.

Denny falls in love with Eve and Zoe is born. The dog notes that Denny's love for Eve takes time away from him. Enzo eventually accepts Eve in Denny's life and finds a spot for her in his heart, too.

The car racing circuit becomes more demanding, and Denny spends more time away from home. Eve begins having severe incapacitating headaches. Enzo smells the disease in her head and wishes his tongue could form the words to encourage her to see a doctor; Eve refuses to go.

In order to care for Zoe, Denny works less but continues his passion for racing cars. Enzo accompanies Denny on a trip to California where they take a few fast laps around the track. After that, Enzo understands Denny's love for the track.

During a family day at the creek, Eve slips and hits her head. At the hospital, the doctors find she has a brain tumor. During this time, Enzo understands that life for the family will never be the same again, and Enzo remembers Denny's racecar wisdom: "Your car goes where your eyes go."

After eight months, Eve dies. Immediately, her parents begin to fight for custody of Zoe. Denny gives up everything, even racing, to fight for his daughter.

Enzo is Denny's best companion during this dark time. Enzo finds ways to show his opinion when the grandparents ask to settle; he defecates on the carpet at the grandparents' home and he urinates on all the court documents.

After a nasty three-year court battle, Denny finally gains all rights to his daughter. He accepts a car testing job in Italy, and with his daughter by his side, Denny moves across the world to fulfill his dream.

Too old to travel to Italy, Enzo passes away in Denny's arms, ready to move on to his next life.

From the National Geographic channel, Enzo had learned that dogs in Mongolia are buried in such a way that they will be reincarnated into a man once the dog is ready.

Enzo thinks that everything in his dog life has prepared him to become a human.

Enzo's wit and discernment give a unique perspective on the lives of Denny, Eve and Zoe. The chapters bounce back and forth from family exploits to lessons about racing cars and how it relates to everyday life.

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" is a compelling story that shows human compassion is possible in a world of unpredictability.

Caroline Dotson, of Downtown Books, writes reviews for Craig Daily Press and can be reached at dotsoncrew@gmail.com.

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