Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain

This wonderful book written by Garth Stein is heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one. A human story about love, about the struggles of reaching for a dream, and the faith to never give up on that dream even when all hope seems lost. What makes this touching human story so unique is that its told by a dog, Enzo. On the eve of his death, Enzo thinks back on his life with the Swift family and everything they've meant to him, in particular, his master, Denny Swift, a young race car driver who dreams of making it big.

Enzo is a philosopher, a TV addict, and a racing fanatic. He's also certain in the knowledge that once he's finished living his life as a dog, once his body has served its purpose and his soul has done what it came to do, he'll be reincarnated as a man. He knows this from a documentary about Mongolia which he saw on TV. In fact, he's always felt almost human. He just wishes he could carry with him all the memories and all of the knowledge that he's garnered on the human condition into his new life.

Enzo's memories begin when Denny first picked him out from a pile of puppies, their move to a little apartment on Lake Washington, and his consternation at Denny falling in love and marrying Eve. When Eve becomes pregnant, Enzo marvels at the female sex. "The life makers", and when Eve's contractions come early and she's home alone with the midwives because Denny is away at a race, it's Enzo who's at Eve's side in her hour of need. As she nurses her newborn baby, Zoe, Eve calls Enzo to her bedside, he hesitates, but then as she scratches his head and cries for wishing Denny was there, he stays, he knows not to move, because he knows that she needed him there. When she asks him to always protect the "tiny purple thing" that the midwives had placed on her torso to nurse, he feels the obligation, and as the story progresses Enzo's love, loyalty and dedication to his family will be demonstrated many a time. In good times and bad times, like Eve's illness which Enzo detects through his keen sense of smell as a bad odor of "wet, soggy decay" that didn't belong in Eve's head. Through it all, Enzo will be there as a source of comfort and love for his family.

Through Enzo's yearning to be human and everything that it encompasses, like walking and talking, we gain a greater appreciation for those simple things which we at times take for granted, like walking and talking. The ability to verbalize one's thoughts, wants and feelings is nothing to sneeze at. In thinking back on my mom's illness, one of the things that most broke my heart was the fact that she was trapped within herself, unable to communicate, to convey her fears, her sorrows.

I loved this book, but even more so, I loved Enzo. A wise soul full of wisdom that the humans he so much admires could only aspire to. Enzo is ready for life, ready "to live every day as if it had been stolen from say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am." That's how I wish I could live my life.