Monday, June 20, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein

Enzo is a dog. An old dog who knows his time has come. But he’s not afraid of the end, he is prepared for it. He wants his master to be unburdened by his existence. And he knows that he himself will be reincarnated as a human.  He learned it from a television documentary.

Before Enzo leaves this life he tells us the story of his life with his master, Denny, starting as the pup Denny selects from the litter. Enzo is a dog of the times, knowledgeable in many things as an ardent student of television.  But his love for race cars comes from Denny who aspires to be a great race driver and the rare occasion Enzo rides with him. But Enzo is an intent listener and knows all about the sport from Denny.

Their lives together include Denny’s marriage to Eve and the birth of their daughter, Zoë. Enzo’s relationship with Eve is a bit tentative but he takes his responsibility as protector of Zoë seriously. He is a very sophisticated dog and watches himself closely. 

A few years later tragedy comes into their lives when Eve is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Denny is devastated but allows Eve's parents to persuade him to let them to care for and nurse her in their home.  He even, albeit reluctantly, agrees to Zoë living with them too, to be close to her mother in her final days.  Then shockingly, Eve’s parents demand custody of Zoë upon Eve’s death. 

Although Enzo obviously can’t know all that is happening in the legal arena, he tells it to the best of his ability, including his own antics to try to sway the outcome.  Dirt and dirty tricks are indeed at play during the three years of the custody fight.  

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved a dog.  Enzo is charming and truly delightful. His telling of the story made me both laugh and cry. If perhaps you are not a dog fan (gasp!), the story of Denny, Eve and Zoë is by itself worth reading despite the narrative being that of a dog.

I give this book five shots of five!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


By Erik Larson

I have looked at books by Erik Larson before, the covers always intrigue me.  I finally decided it was time to give one a go.  I chose Thunderstruck, which intertwines the history of wireless telegraphy with a story of murder.  It all sounded very interesting and, in fact, was.  But drawn out and boring and little connects the two stories until the very end. 

Indeed.  Through much of the book, jumping between stories, they are not even in the same year.

The history of wireless communication is told in regard to the inventor, Marconi.  Although he didn't discover or invent all the technology involved, he was instrumental in refining the technology and pushing the limits of how far wireless communications could be sent or received.  Although interesting, the story mired down in the the details of his protagonists, his travels abroad and back for experiments, and his single minded obsession with secrecy.  Far too much detail and too little meat. 

The tale of Doctor Crippen's murder of his wife was also slow but more entertaining in its telling than the telegraphy account.  Toward the end of the book when the British detectives begin to realize that Dr. Crippen really was capable of killing his wife and discover the evidence they need to prove it, may have been the most interesting section of the book.  Although morbid, I found it a fascinating contradiction to the man described up to that point. 

Where the history of telegraphy and Dr. Crippen's crime intersect is during Dr. Crippen's attempted escape at sea.  Prior to the wireless, discovery of a fugitive at sea could not have been relayed to shore, and no authorities dispatched to take the fugitive into custody upon arriving in port.  The wireless became largely responsible for Dr. Crippen's capture. 

I was not thrilled with this book.  I give it 2 of 5 shots.  However, I am not dissuaded from giving another Erik Larson book a try.