Edited to add: Congratulations to Jessica from This Dangerous Life for winning the signed copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain! Yay!
First off, I have to apologize. I’m sorry! I truly am! I finished your book well over a month ago and I still haven’t posted the review. I’ve seen you in person and I still haven’t posted the review. We’ve traded emails and I still haven’t posted your review. It’s just that, well, I freaking loved this book and I don’t know how to do it justice. A crappy book, yes! I can write about that! I can write about how the writing wasn’t very good, the characters weren’t developed enough, and the plot had holes. But a book I love? All I do is sit here and gush. Which is okay, I guess, but I get so flustered and excited over a book I loved that it’s really hard to tell you anything objective.
So I give up. If you want a more objective, less gushy review, click over to some of the other reviews I’ve linked to below. Otherwise, read on.
This book rocked. It’s making my list of best books I’ve read this year, up there at 2 or 3, though please don’t make me tell you exactly where because I’m not sure myself.
I loved the narrator, Enzo. A dog who narrates! Certainly it’s been done before, but I don’t think it’s ever been done as well. And I think what made it work was your lack of attachment to the dog. I don’t mean you didn’t like the dog, just that when I’ve talked to you you’re very pragmatic. You’re all, “Dogs die.” Which is true, but I’ve never been quite so matter-of-fact about it, and I know for a fact I’d be much more weepy than you iff’n an animal died. And I know Enzo tells us in the beginning that he’s at the end of his life, so we have the whole book to prepare, but we have the whole book to become attached to him, too.
It was so easy to love Enzo with his existential philosophizing and his loyalty to Denny. I liked that he was loyal to Denny but saw Denny for what he was: human. At one point, Enzo says, “We are all afforded our physical existence so we can learn about ourselves. So I understand why Denny, on a deeper level, allowed this situation to befall him. I won’t say he created the situation, but he allowed it. Because he needed to test his mettle. He wanted to know how long he could keep his foot on the accelerator before lifting. He chose this life, and therefore he chose this battle.” Ultimately, isn’t that what we want in our animals, in our friends? For them to love us in spite of ourselves? Blind loyalty isn’t satisfying, but having someone, a friend or an animal, love us in spite of our mistakes, our flubbers, ourselves…well, isn’t that what life is all about?
I loved how Enzo would use what he’d learned about race car driving and apply it to life. In talking about how to be a really good race car driver, one of the principles was, “That which we manifest is before us.” Enzo expounded on that thought: “Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” Something I believe and try to live by is very similar: I am not a victim. I may have had a crappy childhood; I may have not had the parental support when I was transitioning to adulthood; I may not have had the breaks I wanted. None of that matters. I’ve created my life and I can’t blame anything I have or don’t have on anyone else but myself. Enzo later says, “Know who is driving next to you. Any problems that may occur have ultimately been caused by you, because you are responsible for where you are and what you are doing there.” Not a bad principle to live by, eh?
And if I might gush a little more, I loved Enzo’s take on the hero. “The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph. A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which, after all, is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object.” I’ve got lots of flaws and self-made obstacles, so maybe I’ll be a hero yet.
I loved Enzo’s belief that he would be reincarnated as a human, not just because he was a dog, but because he was ready to be a human. You know how people talk about some people having old souls? Well, I think Enzo was an old soul and that was part of the reason he was ready. Some people, some animals, just seem to have a better understanding than others.
So this is my thank you to you, Garth. For writing a book that was amazing and for giving me ideas that I’ll carry with me through life. If you keep on writing, I’ll keep on reading.
Love, your newest biggest fan (but I promise not a stalker),
Rating: 98 out of 100
Other (and probably better) reviews:
I want to thank HarperCollins because I have a copy to give away to one of you, and it’s signed, no less. To enter the contest, just tell me if you had stuffed animals as a kid, and if so, which one was your favorite. To get FOUR extra entries, you can Twitter about this giveaway, Stumble this, or do a blog post about this (putting this in your sidebar doesn’t count). Plenty of people have won with only one entry, though, so no pressure! The contest will end December 29th at 11:59pm Pacific Time. Good luck!