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Saturday, November 8, 2008

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

I suspect that lots of people will buy, read, and assert that they thoroughly enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Sadly, I am not one of those readers.

At the beginning, I had high hopes for this book. The title seemed magical. To accompany that magic, the novel is narrated by a dog named Enzo. And in fact the first 20 pages were great. As the book begins, Enzo has reached the end of his life (this alone had me misty-eyed at page eight) and he is telling the story of all that he has seen, experienced, and what he still hopes for. As he sets up the novel, Enzo has witty thoughts and an interesting narrative voice. Alas, the magic disappeared as the book went on.

What follows in the book is a good outline that doesn't get translated into a good story. Here is the outline: The canine narrator lives with aspiring race car driver Denny Swift in Seattle. He tells us how Denny meets Eve. The two marry and have a daughter, Zoe. Life is good until a crisis occurs: Eve gets sick. This puts the brakes on Denny's career. Will his career recover? Will Eve recover? Conflict arises between Denny and his in-laws. More conflict - is Denny making some missteps? Will Denny be happy and live out his dreams? And what of Zoe? In the step between developing these plot ideas and mapping it out, the skillful novelist's art of making magic, of drawing the reader into a a beautiful tapestry of words and story, does not happen.

Where can that magic be found? Anne Tyler's novels have it. Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres was magical (if you haven't read it, please don't judge the book by the movie). While The Art of Racine in the Rain has some clever bits and interesting plot ideas, it didn't have the rich texture of a highly successful read.

There is magic in the two books below:

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