The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein The Art of Racing in the Rain begins on the eve of Enzo the dog's death, and we follow his narration back to all the joys and struggles he and his family has been through, especially in the years following the death of Eve, his owner Denny's beloved wife. In the ensuing aftermath, Enzo remains by his master's side as his loyal companion, watching Denny juggle a messy custody battle for his daughter Zoe while working towards his dream of becoming a successful race car driver.

Before I say anything else, I apologize for the many comparisons I'm going to be making between this and W. Bruce Cameron's [b:A Dog's Purpose|7723542|A Dog's Purpose|W. Bruce Cameron||10479953] which I very much enjoyed and has many thematic similarities, and I just can't help but base a lot of my thoughts and comments on this using it as a reference point. In any case, the two are often recommended together for dog lovers, and they both have their strong points. I've enjoyed both.

However, though The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully written novel with a solid story, as a "dog book" I would have to give the upper hand to A Dog's Purpose. For starters, I would have to say this book isn't so much a "dog story" but a "human story" narrated from the point of view of the dog. While Enzo relates his feelings and insights throughout the novel, the focus is ever on Denny and Eve and Zoe, and it's what happens in the humans' lives that ultimately drives and shapes the story. Contrast that to A Dog's Purpose, where I felt the dog's life and point-of-view were always in the forefront. Its themes are also more pertinent to the topical issues regarding dogs in this country today -- puppy mills, animal shelters, working dogs, etc.

Also, quite simply, Enzo just doesn't not sound like a dog. While I understand that this is part of the author's intent, it was really difficult to truly buy into the idea of a wizened doggie narrator who can wax philosophical, but at the same time holds some very innocent and naive beliefs about the world.

Finally, even though I enjoyed this book overall, parts of it were quite heart-wrenching and difficult to read, as it's obviously and neatly designed to pull on your heart strings. On the whole, it's a feel good and inspirational read, but much of it was painfully cliched and predictable.