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July 31, 2009

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN: One Book Club's Discussion

Posted by webmaster
Today, contributor Heather Johnson takes us inside her book club's discussion of Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story of family, love, loyalty and hope as told by canine narrator Enzo. Appropriately, a few dogs were present at the gathering. We're wondering if they had anything to add to the discussion in the form of barks or yips, or if they were just channeling their comments to Enzo.

On a lovely summer day earlier this month seven members of my book club met to discuss Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. This book is different than anything we've read before and none of us knew what to expect. A story told from the viewpoint of a dog? And with a car racing theme? REALLY?! But two members of our group have lobbied for it over the past six months, and the rest of us finally gave in to their pleas.

All of us who read the book enjoyed it to varying degrees. We agreed that having a dog tell the story brought a completely new perspective to what would otherwise have been a common tale (and one that we would not have wanted to read).

Some LOVED the book. They felt that Enzo, the dog, was brilliant; his theories on life were simple yet profound. Others enjoyed the book for its "different-ness" from the books we've read in the past. Of everyone at the meeting, I was the most ambivalent about the book, feeling that is was a bit too simplistic for my tastes. I was the minority opinion, but I usually am anyway so it doesn't bother me in the least. That said, I can think of many friends who would love this book and I'm definitely going to recommend that they read it.

Because of this book, those in the club who are not "dog people" gained an appreciation for the unique bond many have with their dogs. We do have a few true "dog people" in our club --- plus there were three dogs at the meeting --- so that part of the discussion was very enlightening. "Dogs are not like cats," one gal stated unequivocally, but another disagreed saying that "some cats do behave like dogs." But the point remains the same --- a typical dog is a much better friend than a typical cat. At least in the opinion of the Storie delle Sorelle Book Club gals.

The most interesting part of the discussion for me was the debate over what the zebra stands for in the story. We all differed in what we thought and we didn't come to any solid conclusions, but we did have a good time sharing our opinions.

Then it was time for dessert --- homemade brownies, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup. Aah, the joys of book club!

---Heather Johnson

More about The Art of Racing in the Rain:
Garth Stein's guest blog post, "The Art of Visiting a Reading Group"
Bookseller Debra Linn's take on the book
Carol Fitzgerald's interview with Garth review