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The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

This bestseller is about a dog who believes he will be reincarnated as a human. He loves his master, a race car driver.

I didn’t much like this book. First, the author does not do a good job of staying in the dog’s voice. Or, for those who disagree, I might put it again that at time, the dog expresses thoughts that are outside his experiences and the knowledge that he has gleaned from watching television. The dog, in some narrative passages, simply knows too much.

Though the dog has little interest in brand names (other than cars), very few things are identified very specifically in the book. Race tracks, dog-friendly parks, race cars, race car drivers, and little else have very specific identities in this book. So I was surprised when a character who negatively impacts the dog’s master is specifically identified as having gone to one particular school– an all girls Catholic schoo– in Seattle, the town where the dog and master live.

Because I know a bit about this school, this caught my attention and made me think about how the author treats women in this popular book. There are really only five women in it: the dog’s master’s wife, who is primarily seen as helpless; her weak-willed mother, who is described as an “Evil Twin”; the girl from the all girls school, who is seen as having done something unspeakably cruel and awful; the dog’s master’s mother, who is blind and must be led around by her weak husband; and the dog’s master’s daughter, who begins getting powerful verbs only after the dog implies that she is the re-incarnation of a famous race car driver.

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I don’t think I’ll rush to read anything else by this writer, or by his talking dog.

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