Buy it on Amazon.
When the movie opens on August 8th, that sound you’ll hear is grown men sobbing. Here’s reason #1:
Here’s reason #2:
“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like.
I learned that from a program on the National Geographic channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.
I am ready.”
Here’s reason #3, an excerpt from the novel.
How can you prepare for the emotional wringer that awaits you?
Read the book!
That exclamation mark is astonishing. I’m not a pet-lover — and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a novel narrated by a dog.
It contains many insights about car racing — and I have no interest in car racing.
So what do I find to praise?
The situation. Enzo is old, facing death. While he has learned from racing movies to forget the past and live in the moment, this is his time to remember. And he can remember objectively — as a dog, his senses are sharper, his emotions less complicated. With the clarity of a Buddha, Enzo can see. And he can listen: “I never interrupt, I never deflect the conversation with a comment of my own.” So he’s quite the knowing narrator.
The book starts joyously. Denny loves his wife Eve, who works for a big retail company that “provided us with money and health insurance.” And Denny lives for Zoe, their daughter. And Denny loves Enzo like a son. Then Enzo smells something bad happening in Eve — the dog is always the first to know — and you start to brace yourself. But not enough, not nearly enough. Bad things happen to good people in this novel, and then worse things, and soon you are so angry, so hurt, so tear-stained and concerned that you do not think for one second to step back and say, hey, wait, this is just a story! A shaggy dog story, at that! [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition., click here.]
It works out. This is fiction, of course, it works out. Not without cost to the characters and the reader. But the payoff is considerable — a story that commands you to keep going, ideas that are a lot smarter than the treacle Garth Stein could have served up.
“How difficult it must be to be a person.” Enzo nails that. “To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live.” Who wouldn’t? “Racing is about discipline and intelligence, not about who has the heavier foot. The one who drives smart will always win in the end.” And there’s more — yeah, this could be summer reading in progressive high schools some day.
Or you could take a refresher course now in learning how to race in the rain. When you see the movie, you’ll thank me.
This article originally appeared on The Head Butler.
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