Friday, November 27, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

The month of November has been a tumultuous one in our household. My husband had an unexpected heart procedure done on the 10th, and is now recovering well, praise God. During that time, The Art of Racing in the Rain was the perfect book to take my mind away from my worries. I had postponed reading The Art of Racing in the Rain for months because dog stories always make me cry. The Art of Racing in the Rain was no exception.

But having said that, I hasten to add that Garth Stein’s novel about a race-car driver and his dog, Enzo, is one of the best books I've read in years. I've gone back through the novel more than once to reread my favorite portions. The Art of Racing in the Rain will stay on my shelf so I can read it again and again.

The story is told by Enzo, a dog who knows he has the soul of a human. Enzo and his master, Denny, have been together since Enzo's puppy days. The Art of Racing in the Rain follows their journey as Denny marries and adds a child to the family, all the while pursuing his dream of being a championship race-car driver. At turns humorous, poignant, and downright tragic, this book is an uplifting story of love and hope.

For sheer perfection in writing, Chapter 26 is an absolute delight. It brings the essence of Denny and Enzo into clear focus and thrills the reader with a behind-the-wheel look at techniques involved in auto racing. You don’t have to be a racing fan (I’m not) to love this book. The ending is nothing less than brilliant. This is more a love letter to a book than it is a review—that’s how deeply this story touched me.

Stein writes for the general market, so there are a few instances of profanity and sexual references. Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s a keeper!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tender Grace, by Jackina Stark

As Tender Grace begins, Audrey Eaton realizes she's locked herself into a grief shell following the unexpected death of her husband over a year ago. In an effort to get her life back, she decides to take a solo road trip to visit a destination she and her husband had always planned to experience together.

This is Stark's debut novel. She does a magnificent job of putting the reader into Audrey's emergence from her shell, one destination at a time. She leaves her home and family in Missouri and at first travels very short distances, hiding in hotel rooms and watching television. As the days progress she grows more bold, until she finds herself having some wildly unexpected adventures in her westward journey.

I loved the way the author used the Book of John, from Scripture, to illustrate Audrey’s return to faith and trust.

Tender Grace is a gentle story, written in journal form. This is one I could read again and again, just to enjoy the skill with which Stark portrays Audrey’s growth as a person. The realism in the book brought tears to my eyes more than once.

I thoroughly recommend Tender Grace.