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The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein I did not really want to read this book but my f2f book group chose it. Life from the perspective of an anthropomorphic dog, did not capture my imagination, but I can see now that I have begun it, that it could just as easily be a reflection of man’s thoughts as well, and I am reading it with a different eye.
I find that I am not that interested in the car racing side of the story because it seems too contrived for the dog to be engaging in many of the thought processes with his owner. It is easier to relate to the human relationships, regarding basic feelings and emotions, because I can relate to those more easily than to Nascar. However, that said, the simple rules revealed in the anecdotes about the racetrack, about managing life’s situations and challenges, are illuminating for us humans as well as for Enzo, the star dog of the novel. It is through the animal that human experience is being examined, and it is a unique avenue to travel.
Although the story is written, a bit tongue in cheek, since you have to suspend disbelief while you read it thinking of a dog who can both think and reason, who believes he will be reincarnated as a man, it is also written with humor and sorrow, exploring the happiness and pain that constitutes our lives.
Through the dog, we experience some very real emotions. The dog has a knack for explaining the mundane situations in our lives as well as our everyday reactions in a very simplistic, yet thoughtful and enlightening way. The basic truths about relationships are explored thoroughly with the examination of the dog’s thoughts.
The book begins with Enzo contemplating euthanasia to end his misery and then delves into his thought processes and experiences from puppyhood to the present, from Denny’s marriage to Eve and the birth of Zoe to Eve’s eventual illness and death. Through these short chapters, which open a window into his thoughts, we learn about what makes all of us tick: our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our concerns.
When Enzo thinks about his desire to be euthanized for various reasons (not wanting to be a burden, not wanting to be helpless), and is no longer sure it is the best idea, we are forced to stop and consider that thought more fully. I thought of a friend who recently died from Cancer. She too had thought she had enough of her suffering and wanted it to be over. Hospice was called in and treatment stopped. In the end, very near death, she said to me, “Oh, I thought it would be easier, it is so hard! I don’t want to disappear!” It broke my heart because I could do nothing, and in this book we learn that the only thing we can offer is comfort to those in need. The rest will take care of itself. Ultimately, those who remain, need to take care of themselves.
This little book which I thought was going to be a trivial story, turned into one that uncovered profound images and memories for me. It opened my mind to new ideas about how we live and how we die and to what base level an ordinary human being will sink in order to accomplish a goal or satisfy a selfish need. In the end, it is more about who we are and the choices we make during our lifetime, rather than how we die; but it would be nice to think we could all live and die with dignity.