”Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.”
Thoughts: Dog novels are dangerous for anyone who has loved and lost a pet. Typically, they involve many tears and can be an overall bittersweet experience because of that. The Art of Racing in the Rain does involve crying, but the tears that fall are good ones, shed in joy as much as in sadness. Enzo, with his unwavering faith in Denny, his skill as a driver, and his ability to be the best dad ever,
Christopher Evan Welch does a superb job narrating Enzo. He has an earnestness to his performance that makes it so easy to envision him as a dog sharing his insights of the human world. His voice is neither too old nor too young, and his delivery is forthright but with that sense of enthusiasm that every dog owner knows never disappears. One gets a greater appreciation for Enzo’s (and Mr. Stein’s) dry wit through the audio version that would be all too easy to ignore in print. While it would be all too easy to get bogged down in an overwhelming sense of sadness as Enzo shares his final thoughts, Mr. Welch’s straightforward performance allows a reader to focus on the sense of levity and unconditional love that Enzo has for Denny and Zoe.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautiful story of unconditional love and success against the most formidable of odds. Enzo makes for the best kind of narrator – honest and loving and thoroughly canine. Though it does reduce a reader to tears, the entire story ends on a note of hope rather than despair that is as heartwarming as it is endearing. All dog owners will have a greater appreciation of the underlying wisdom and faith of their beloved pet after reading Enzo’s philosophy about life.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.