The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

In Chapters last week I had planned only to buy SuperFreakonomics after it was recommended to me by someone who has also enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and Outliers.   But they had a buy-3-get-1-free sale on throughout the store and books never go stale, so, I took advantage.

The only novel in my bunch was a book I’d never even heard of but the adorable dog on the cover caught my eye.   The Art of Racing in the Rain by screenwriter-turned-novelist Garth Stein.

book cover for The Art of Racing in the Rain featuring a white dog with red goggles and scarf

It’s Stein’s third novel, a best-seller that first came out in 2008 but somehow its success eluded me.  It’s the story of Dennis as told by Enzo, his dog, who is nearing the end of his life.  Dennis is a really good guy who has some really challenging things happen to him as he simultaneously tries to carve out a career for himself as a race car driver.  He talks to Enzo a lot so the dog has learned a lot about racing.  Dennis also developed a habit of leaving the TV on so Enzo wouldn’t be lonely during the day and Enzo once saw a documentary that said in their next life, dogs get to become human.  So as much as he loves Dennis, Enzo is arthritic and in pain and anticipating his reincarnation.

If you have ever wondered why dogs do some of the inexplicable things they do, Enzo is happy to explain.  One-on-one time with his favourite human is just about the best thing that can happen to a dog.  When Dennis takes Enzo for a hot lap around the race track, tying him securely to the front seat, Enzo recognizes it as the most exciting moment of his life.  “Two barks for faster, boy!”  “Woof! Woof!”  I loved this book and even though I knew from the outset that it wouldn’t end with Dennis and Enzo walking off into a meadow, the final pages still gave my heart a rattle and my tear ducts a good workout. 

It’s being made into a movie and Patrick Dempsey, Doctor McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy, has been cast as Dennis.  The voice-over talent who will bring Enzo’s thoughts to life still hasn’t been selected.  It needs to be someone older, because the story is told in flashback.  Many fans on Stein’s website forum are calling for the excellent Morgan Freeman but I think he sounds too wise and commanding.  Enzo is still a dog after all and a dog who doesn’t claim to know it all.  Tom Hanks is too well associated with Toy Story and Alec Baldwin is too … Alec Baldwin. Maybe Jeff Daniels?  I now care who they cast and it simply cannot be anyone as goofy or flip as Mike Myers or Robin Williams.  The movie is due out in 2012.