Friday, July 15, 2011

Read Alike: "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

Garth Stein's first novel, Raven Stole the Moon, was published in 1998 to positive reviews. Raven Stole the Moon is the story of a woman who returns to her Alaskan Tlingit roots after the sudden death of her five-year-old son, drawing on Mr. Stein's own family heritage. Before he became a published author, Mr. Stein had a successful career as a movie producer. It's The Art of Racing in the Rain, though, that has caught the attention of so many readers.

The Art of Racing in the Rain's narrator is Enzo, a Golden Retriever mix who dreams of reincarnation as a human. Enzo is thoughtful, caring, philosophical and often frustrated by the limits of his communication skills as a dog. He was adopted by Denny, an F1 racer, as a puppy, and named after Enzo Ferrari. Enzo and Denny's world is quickly upended when Denny meets and marries Eve, and they have a child. The story becomes more complicated as the characters struggle to reconcile their desires and the challenges of life.

The choice of Enzo as narrator creates a fresh perspective in this family drama, and allows for some much needed humor when the plot grows darker. It is Enzo's unique perspective tied with the all-too real character relationships that have made
The Art of Racing in the Rain such a popular choice for readers and book clubs since its publication.

You can read more about Garth Stein and Enzo at his website:

If you've read and loved
The Art of Racing in the Rain, you may also enjoy these titles:

A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron
The canine narrator of this heart-warming and funny novel experiences several incarnations as different dogs. Some lives are long and happy, while others are short and sad, but it is the quest for happiness and love that draw the reader along with the protagonist.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
A deeply philosophical French novel about a residential building in Paris narrated in turns by a suicidal twelve-year old tenant, and the reserved concierge; both of whom keep their intellectual natures hidden and alone, until the arrival of a Japanese businessman who sees their value. Though it lacks both dogs and racing, though the insightful and occasionally humorous tone is similar to Enzo's style.

St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb
This modern retelling of The Canterbury Tales has the characters on a pilgrimage to honor the fallen hero of NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt. In much the same way that Enzo turns to his heroes in the world of Formula One, the varied group of characters in St. Dale, look to Earnhardt to understand their own lives and goals.

Walking in Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe
This darkly humorous novel takes many of the conventions of chick-lit, family drama, work stress, and relationship troubles, and gives it a little twist. After Dawn is dumped by her boyfriend, her dog Chuck commiserates, and Dawn discovers she has a bit of Dr. Dolittle's talent. Ms. Markoe has since written Nose Down, Eyes Up, which also explores the relationship between humans and our canine companions.

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagan
The last years of Marilyn Monroe's life told through the eyes of her dear companion, the Maltese Mafia Honey. Philosophy, politics, and a dizzying array of celebrities populate the pages of this off-beat and witty novel.

Timbuktu by Paul Auster
Mr. Bones, a dog, accompanies his master, Willy G. Christmas, in the last days of his troubled life as a writer and Santa Claus' prophet. After the death of his human friend, Mr. Bones navigates life in a world far more conventional, but no less mad.

The Labrador Pact by Matt Haig
The incredibly loyal black lab, Prince, wants only to protect his British family, but finds it difficult to save them from themselves. Despite a humorous tone, readers should be warned that Prince's story ends in a far darker fashion than Enzo's does.

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson
Adam March has lost everything: his career, his family, and his carefully constructed perfect life. Then he is introduced to Chance, a pit bull rescued from the world of dog fighting. Adam and Chance take turns narrating their stories of redemption.

The story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
This bleak novel of a family of dog breeders in rural Wisconsin borrows pieces of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to tell a haunting coming-of-age tale. The narration shifts among the characters, but primarily follows young Edgar, who cannot speak, and his loyal dogs.

A few non-fiction titles about dogs and their people that you may enjoy:

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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