A weekend spent in E. with my parents meant I read a lot. Too bad I finished the weekend with such a terrible book. Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain has been widely celebrated, but for reasons I’m struggling to understand.
I suppose it’s a feel-good book. The reincarnated dog returns to his master, the widowed husband gets judicial vindication and his choicest job, the mother who died of cancer died because she didn’t ‘fight’ hard enough. The overarching message is one of terrible cliche and terrible responsibility: if you want it hard enough you can have it.
I say terrible responsibility because how cruel to suggest, (nay, to preach as this novel does) that cancer, or unemployment, or lawsuits are somehow the manifestation – or lack of manifestation – of individual wishes/desires. Karma! The book actually suggests karma to be the source or cause of misfortune and reward. *Note: I am not, at all, taking issue with karma as a philosophical idea; rather, I’m very uncomfortable with the quasi-mystical, entirely uncomplicated use of “karma” and “spirit” used throughout this book.
Combine the uncomfortable (or disturbing) morality of the novel with a dog narrator and excessive use of life is like a racetrack metaphor and you have yourself a terrible novel.