The art of racing in the rain - Garth Stein "The car goes where the eye goes"

Enzo is nearing the end of his life when he reflects on his past with Denny, Eve, and Zoe. Oh, and he happens to be a canine too.

I Liked:
If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would probably be "engaging". This book, even in the sections I didn't like, really kept me interested and wanting to read it. And that is very hard for an author to do period, but to be able to keep my interest when A) I am pretty sure I know what is going to happen next and B) I am upset at the characters/plot/whatever? That is impressive.
I know that previous compliment probably sounds more like a two-edged sword. This book actually has a lot going for it: good characters, engaging story (as I mentioned above), and fluid writing.
Our main character is Enzo. What makes him particularly noteworthy is that he is a dog. I must admit I was afraid that he might come off as too doggy, too foreign to be able to associate with. Huh, I was sure wrong! Enzo is a perfect blend of foreign dogginess (his escapade with the crows, his revenge on the Evil Twins) and humanity (his empathy to Denny, barking twice to "Go faster!"). I really liked the thought that our pets (animals in general?) may have this sort of knowledge of their surroundings. I have a cat, and sometimes, she sure acts like she knows EXACTLY what is going on.
The other character I really bonded with was Denny. Denny went through hell and back in this book, and his journey was cathartic in a way (Even if at times, he was incredibly stupid...see below). Seeing him persevere when it would be easier to give up, to continue his dream to be a race car driver, even in his thirties was encouraging to say the least.
I won't go too much into the engaging story, because I kinda detailed it above. However, I want to add, I actually liked the inclusion of race car driving into the story. It made nice symbolism, and I actually liked learning more about race car driving (and I am not a big racing fan).
As for writing...it was easy on the eyes and good on the soul. I breezed through this book. The narrative was very effortless, and even the more introspective passages didn't get so belabored in their pedagogy that I grew frustrated and had to skim/skip the sections. Plus, I felt I actually learned something new!

I Didn't Like:
I liked a lot about this novel; one thing I didn't care for was its gimmick. This book would be no different than hundreds of other literature novels about families that go through crap and come out victorious in the end were it not for the fact of the canine narrator. And in many cases, the canine narrator wasn't used to the fullest. It would have been wonderful to have more scenes where Enzo got to play in the park; one of the greatest scenes was where a significant character dies and Enzo runs off and kills a squirrel to unleash his emotions. That was great because we compared his way of mourning to the other human characters around him. But most of the time, Enzo is almost too humanized and the story just becomes yet another family trial story.
I could almost forgive the book that. Enzo wasn't a bad narrator. And a story has to have conflicts.
But this is where my greatest complaint(s?) lies: the ever increasing amount of conflicts and the stupidity of the characters involved in said conflicts. It was bad enough that we learned about a character's illness by page 50 (50! In a 321 page book, that is a mere 15% of the way through the book), but must we endure said character (who is probably barely in his/her twenties) then REFUSING any medical help whatsoever just because he/she "doesn't want to deal with it"? Why must the conflict be introduced so quickly, before we have ANY time to enjoy being alive and a family? Why does this young character insist on not going to a doctor and possibly getting a treatment? This is never explained! And now, we as the readers must endure all these "happy" scenes, which get tainted by the fact that we can guess that this ailing character will die by the end of the book. Thank you for forcing me to refill my Prozac prescription.
But worse than this was the rape accusation. The moment the teenaged girl tried to force herself on Denny, I knew something bad was going to happen. Several pages later...BINGO! Denny is arrested for rape. I nearly wanted to quit reading this book, it frustrated me so badly! Not only does Denny have to suffer with the earlier crap (and I'm not even getting into a quarter of it, for fear of spoilers!), but now a molestation lawsuit?
And the problem is, Denny being a race car driver, not being wealthy, and being away from his family is enough of a challenge without adding 101 billion more conflicts. To tie back into my first complaint, this smarts of a gimmicky "intellectual" novel. I can see the checklist right now:

Character has cancer? Check.
Character is going to die? Check.
Molestation lawsuit? Check.
SPOILER SPOILER? Check.
Creative gimmick to make people think this is a different book than all the others? Check.

Ah, with that out of the way, we can get this off to press!

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
A few f-bombs, da**, sh**, he**.
Denny and Eve are intimate with each other. A significant portion of the plot is dedicated to the (false) claim of rape.
Someone is hit by a car. Someone dies from a terminal illness.

Overall:
I must admit, I've reached the end of my review, and I'm not 100% sure what to rate it. The book angered me in places, so I considered a two star, such as I rated the pretentious "Time Traveler's Wife". However, unlike the "Time Traveler's Wife", we don't have pages upon pages detailing all the punk bands of the 1970's or the exact moves in a pool game or how many times the main couple have sex. As I said before, Enzo is pretty good narrator, he often has some very interesting perspective, the story was very engaging, even when it angered me, the theme of this novel comes out really loud and clear, and the ending is most assuredly not God-awful depressing. So, I think three stars is a good rating. It's a decent book, but be prepared for some teary-eyed moments.