Study Guide

The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain Summary

Chapter Summaries

Chapters 1-3 Summary

Garth Stein’s novel The Art of Racing in the Rain was first published in 2008 and has remained on several best-seller lists ever since. The story is narrated by a mixbreed dog, Enzo. In the first pages, he is looking forward to his death because he believes that after his death he will be reborn as a human. While the dog waits for this transformation, he enjoys observing the humans around him.

As the story opens, Enzo is physically falling apart. His joints stiffen up to the point where he can hardly move. He is in constant pain and is working on a plan to communicate to his owner, Denny, that it just might be time for that final one-way trip to the vet’s office. Enzo knows this is a difficult decision for Denny to make, so he is attempting to encourage his owner by exaggerating some of his ailments. For example, although Enzo knows he can move, sometimes he does not respond to Denny’s calls. When Denny comes home from work, there are times when all Enzo can do is barely wag his tail.

Enzo is not worried about death because he saw a documentary on television that clearly stated that dogs return to this world as humans after they die. This accounts for the close relationship between dogs and people. In the meanwhile, as Enzo contemplates his death, he often loses himself to one of his favorite pastimes: watching car races on television. Denny races cars, and Enzo considers his owner one of the best drivers. Denny is especially gifted when it comes to racing in the rain. Whereas other cars racing on the wet track will skid, Denny drives as if his car is magically void of the raindrops.

Denny and Enzo live in Seattle with Zoe, Denny’s daughter. Denny’s wife, Eve, died after a long illness. Denny works in an auto shop when he is not competing in races. When he is racing, he is gone for days; then he returns, often with trophies.

Enzo was born on a farm on the eastern side of the state of...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Chapters 4-6 Summary

When Enzo, as a puppy, first came home with Denny, they lived in an apartment in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle. Enzo did not like the apartment because it felt confining, especially because he was used to having access to the open fields of the farm where he was born. But there was a nice view of Lake Washington from the window. During their first year together, Enzo’s relationship with Denny grew nicely. As a matter of fact, it grew so well that Enzo questioned why Denny eventually brought a girlfriend home. Her name was Eve, and the first thing Enzo noticed about her was that she smelled sweet. The other thing Enzo immediately realized was that he was losing some of Denny’s attention. Denny seemed to always want to be “pulling” on Eve, “tugging, and biting lips.” Eve tried to assure Enzo that she would not come between him and Denny. But Enzo realized that she had already partially done that.

The trouble for dogs, Enzo states, is that they have no thumbs. Eve had thumbs and could do so many more interesting things than he could. Even monkeys have thumbs, and according to Enzo, monkeys are not even that smart. Surely they are not as intelligent as dogs are. Yet they were given the thumb advantage. The closest dogs have to thumbs are dew claws, the extra nail that hangs above each paw. Enzo thinks the dew claws should have evolved into thumbs, but unfortunately, humans often think the dew claws are not worth anything and usually have the vet cut them off when dogs are mere puppies.

After Eve moved in, she began making to-do lists for Denny that kept him busy whenever he was not at work or attending a race. Enzo believes Denny did these chores more than willingly because of the reward he received later in the day when he and Eve retired to the romping they did in bed.

After Denny and Eve were married, Enzo noticed Eve’s belly growing larger. Enzo also witnessed all the affection Eve lavished on that...

(The entire section is 529 words.)

Chapters 7-9 Summary

When Zoe was a few months old, Eve put her in daycare and returned to her job at a department store. Denny was working all day at the auto parts store, so Enzo was left alone for the first time. Denny used to have a job that allowed him to work at home. When Eve was pregnant, she stayed at home, too. But with the new routine everyone was gone and Enzo felt abandoned. His days felt long, and all he could do was nap or stare out the windows. He really hated it.

Then one day, Denny forgot to turn off the television set before he left, and Enzo found one of the joys of his life. He watched television. The first day, he was entertained and educated by the Weather Channel. He learned about hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other exciting natural disasters. Time passed much more quickly. When Denny returned, he was surprised at how much Enzo appeared to enjoy watching the TV screen. So he decided from that day forward to leave the television on for Enzo, to entertain him while the rest of the family was gone. Enzo’s favorite station was the Speed Channel, which only showed car racing.

One day, Denny came home with a photograph that made Eve cry. Enzo was not sure why she did this. He looked at the picture, but it had little effect on him. He did not realize it was a photo of their new house. Shortly afterward, everything, including Enzo’s bed, was packed and moved to the new place. When things were set, Denny took Enzo into the new backyard, where they played one of Enzo’s favorite games, fetch. After they put Zoe to bed that first night in their new home, Enzo watched as Denny and Eve rolled around naked, clutching one another, in each of the house’s rooms.

Another incident in Enzo’s life was less exciting. One day much later, when Eve bent down to lower Enzo’s food dish to the floor, Enzo sniffed Eve’s ear. He smelled something he did not like. The smell reminded him of something rotten, and it appeared to be...

(The entire section is 672 words.)

Chapters 10-12 Summary

Enzo is locked in the house when Eve leaves with Zoe. Denny is out of town for a race. Enzo does not panic. He is a dog, and a dog knows how to fast, how to conserve himself until he finds food. Enzo says that when God refused to give dogs thumbs, he gave dogs the ability to go for long periods of time without nourishment. If only God had given Enzo a thumb, he thinks, he could have opened the pantry door and torn open the bag of kibble. Instead, Enzo searches the floor for fallen food and drinks water out of the toilet bowl.

Enzo waits three days before Denny comes home. On the third day, Enzo thinks he starts hallucinating. When he goes into Zoe’s room, he sees one of her stuffed animals dancing. It is a zebra Denny’s parents sent to Zoe as a gift. After dancing, the zebra begins abusing the other toys before ripping open his own seams and pulling out his insides. Enzo cannot believe what he has seen.

When Denny returns home, he discovers that Eve left Enzo behind for three days. He yells at her, saying that Enzo could have died. Eve says she was sick and was not thinking. Then Zoe comes out of her room in tears. When Denny and Eve see the mess in her room, they curse Enzo for the ruined toys. Enzo takes their harassment. He is unable to explain that it was all the zebra’s fault.

Later that night, Enzo crawls up to Denny, who is sitting on the back porch. Enzo is unsure if Denny is still angry with him. Then he notices that Denny is drinking some hard liquor and that his mood is more relaxed. Denny apologizes to Enzo for having yelled at him. Enzo places his head in Denny’s lap. Then Denny announces that he won the race he had been attending, and he was offered a great position on a professional team. The only problem is that Denny would have to be away from Enzo, Eve, and Zoe for six months at a time. Denny asks Enzo if he should do this. Enzo, of course, cannot tell him, but he thinks that although it might be...

(The entire section is 598 words.)

Chapters 13-15 Summary

Enzo offers a story that concerns crows. He does not like the birds; he thinks they are sneaky and jealous of their cousins, the regal ravens. Enzo is fascinated and somewhat pleased when the crows make a very poor decision one day in Enzo’s backyard.

Enzo has spent a lot of time studying crows. He knows how clever they are in scavenging for food. They can open garbage cans, tear through cellophane bags, and steal plastic grocery bags from off the porch. This is exactly what a flock of crows does this day.

Eve goes shopping and returns with so many bags that she cannot carry all of them into the house at the same time. She brings them from the car to the porch, then she takes them from the porch to the...

(The entire section is 707 words.)

Chapters 16-18 Summary

Denny has a successful stretch of races, and Eve has a period of good health. The family’s tensions are at least temporarily toned down. In the place of yelling and arguing, Enzo hears laughter and loves it. He also loves that big names from the sports racing world are showing up for dinner. Enzo enjoys listening to the racers’ conversations. He is also proud of Zoe, who has developed her communication skills and can repeat some of her dad’s most frequently spoken philosophies about car racing. Because Enzo cannot talk, he lives vicariously through Zoe; she often says what he thinks he would say if he had the chance.

Denny’s lucky streak comes to an end, however, when another car side-swipes his in one of the...

(The entire section is 526 words.)

Chapters 19-22 Summary

Mike, Denny’s coworker, appears in the parking lot at the hospital where Enzo is sitting with Denny. Enzo hears Denny tell Mike that there is some kind of mass growing inside Eve’s head. No one will know if it is a tumor until they go inside, Denny says. Denny does not know how long Eve will be in the hospital, but makes plans for Mike to take care of Enzo until he finds out.

When Enzo arrives at Mike’s house, Mike’s roommate, Tony, takes the stuffed dog Enzo likes to sleep with and puts it into the washing machine. Enzo feels humiliated and wants to hate Tony for defiling his toy dog. Of course, Enzo also feels a little embarrassed that he still sleeps with the stuffed animal, the first toy Denny bought him as...

(The entire section is 477 words.)

Chapters 23-24 Summary

When Eve is released from the hospital, Denny discusses with Eve’s parents, Maxwell and Trish, where Eve should stay. Denny reluctantly gives in to Eve’s parents’ request to take care of their daughter. Eve will need a nurse to be on hand but Denny has to work during the day. Maxwell and Trish are retired, so they can be at home with Eve, and they can afford the nursing care. Once Denny relents, Maxwell and Trish put pressure on Denny to also allow them to care for Zoe. At first, Denny resists. Then he realizes that maybe it would be best for Eve to have Zoe near her all day.

A few days later, Denny takes Zoe and Enzo to his in-law’s home. A hospital bed has been set up in the living room. Then Eve arrives. This...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Chapters 25-26 Summary

In the middle of winter, Enzo, Denny, and Zoe join some of Eve’s extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and they all travel up into the mountains for a week of skiing and snowshoeing. While there, the family members embrace Denny, Zoe, and even Enzo, but Enzo questions why they had to wait for a family crisis to do so. Although Enzo had been acquainted with them, this is the first time the extended family has demonstrated such an interest in Denny’s family.

The snow sports are fun, but Enzo is not a fan of cold weather. But he has to admit that one of his favorite times is when the family builds a fire outside after dinner. The nights are crisp and the stars are incredible, but Enzo most enjoys the blaze...

(The entire section is 769 words.)

Chapters 27-29 Summary

Eve’s doctors had predicted that she would live another six months at most. After eight months pass and Eve is still alive, she decides to have a party. Enzo looks around at the people who have come. Everyone seems happy, or at least they pretend too be. Even Zoe seems to be in a good mood—funnier than Enzo has seen her in months.

As they are about to leave, Enzo hears Denny tell Eve how much he loves her and how much he wants her to come home. Eve responds by telling him that she wants to go home and one day will. When Denny goes to say goodnight to Zoe, Eve talks to Enzo. She tells him that she had been wrong to stay at her parents’ home all this time. She should have been with Denny. She also thanks Enzo for...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapters 30-32 Summary

Denny offers to let Zoe stay home from school, but she insists on going. After Denny takes Zoe to school, he and Enzo go to a cafe for coffee and a sweet roll. They sit at an outside table and are soon joined by a man that Enzo describes as being not fat but very round. The man is a customer at the auto shop where Denny works, and he is a lawyer.

The man reads the papers Eve’s parents gave Denny, which state that they are suing Denny for custody of Zoe. When Denny tells the attorney that his in-laws also said that Eve had requested that Zoe live with them, the lawyer says that it makes no difference what might have been said or even what Eve might have wanted. The surviving parent is the only one who has a right to...

(The entire section is 574 words.)

Chapters 33-35 Summary

Enzo admits that he does not witness much of the legal proceedings regarding the custody of Zoe and the accusation against Denny of rape. He is a dog, and dogs are not allowed inside the police station or the courtroom. However, Enzo can tell readers that the legal issues take three years to resolve, and during this time time, Eve’s parents seem determined to break Denny financially and emotionally. The legal costs are beyond Denny’s ability to make money. He is confined to the state of Washington because of the criminal charges against him, so he can no longer take on any of the lucrative side jobs that were located in other states. And because he is charged with the rape of an underage child, he is denied all rights to visit...

(The entire section is 511 words.)

Chapters 36-38 Summary

A few days after Eve’s death, Denny takes Enzo for a long walk. Enzo thinks Denny is seeking change because he bypasses his jeans and instead wears a nice pair of dark slacks. They go to one of their favorite parks, and Denny takes Enzo off the leash and lets him run around. After that park, they walk on farther to a park Enzo has never been to before. This one is wilder than the first, and Enzo runs through briars up and down the hills. Then to Enzo’s surprise, Denny does not turn back to go home. Instead he continues walking until they reach Lake View Cemetery. Enzo notices a group of people huddled together. Everyone is dressed in black. Then he sees Zoe.

When he and Denny draw closer to the crowd, Eve’s father...

(The entire section is 602 words.)

Chapters 39-40 Summary

Zoe builds a fortress of stuffed animals around Enzo as he naps during a visit one day. There are hundreds of them—teddy bears, giraffes, sharks, dogs, cats, and birds. Enzo finds this amusing and touching. He loves that Zoe includes him in her games. He falls back to sleep feeling content. But then in the middle of the night he awakens and finds the infamous zebra on top of the heap and staring down at him. It is not the same one Enzo had watched tear itself apart, but it is its duplicate. Enzo knows for sure that the demon has returned. Enzo can hardly move or sleep for the rest of that night knowing that the monster zebra is watching him. Enzo wonders, if it were capable of dismembering itself, what might it do to him?

...

(The entire section is 580 words.)

Chapters 41-45 Summary

Time drags on as Denny waits for his court date. In the meantime, he enjoys his weekend visits with Zoe. On one weekend, he takes Zoe and Enzo to a go-cart park. Enzo watches Denny and Zoe race. At one point, the young man who runs the park suggests that Denny challenge Zoe to a race. The man says that his money is on Zoe winning. He thinks she has the marks of a good racer. Denny agrees, and the race is on. Denny gives Zoe a small advantage in the beginning, but when it comes time to pass her, Zoe knows how to block him out. She maneuvers her vehicle like a pro and beats him. Denny feels proud of her. He knows now that his daughter is quicker and smarter than he is. That gives him the energy he needs to fuel his cause to win her...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

Chapters 46-49 Summary

Enzo does not feel very happy the following winter. He is often left alone, and without television to distract him, the days are exceptionally long. He begins to feel tired of his body and the limitations of being a dog. Enzo believes that this mental state led to the accident.

He and Denny are walking home from a park. Denny allows Enzo to walk along the streets toward home without his leash on. Enzo becomes distracted and does not notice when Denny crosses the street. So when Denny calls to him, Enzo sees his owner in the distance and begins walking toward him; he does not realize there is traffic. A young driver who is not used to paying close attention to the sides of the road is coming down the street, and they...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Chapters 50-52 Summary

Denny has a teaching job at a nearby driving school, and one day while he and Enzo are there, the owner of the school asks Denny to do him a favor. He mentions Luca Pantoni and asks if Denny remembers him. Denny says he definitely remembers Luca, whom he had over to dinner while Eve was still alive. Don then told Denny that Luca is there and wants to see the racetrack. When Denny agrees to show it, Luca asks Denny if he would like to drive his Ferrari F430. Denny is shocked. The Ferrari is worth almost $200,000 and can attain speeds around 190mph. Of course he wants to drive it. Denny’s students watch, and as he whizzes around the track, they cannot believe how fast he is going.

After Denny successfully takes Luca...

(The entire section is 607 words.)

Chapters 53-56 Summary

Enzo is curious about Denny’s relationship with his parents. He does not hear any details until Mike comes over later and pulls the story out of Denny. Denny’s mother is blind and has been that way since Denny was a very young boy. Denny had been his mother’s main caretaker. When Denny graduated from school, he wanted to go away. But Denny’s father insisted that Denny stay at home to help run the farm and take care of his mother. When Denny decided to leave, his father told him that he would never again speak to him. Denny called every year at Christmas, but neither his mother nor his father would respond. Denny continued calling. Then when Eve died and Denny lost Zoe, he called his parents again and asked them for...

(The entire section is 636 words.)

Chapters 57-58 Summary

The day after the trial, Mr. Lawrence informs Denny that Eve’s parents have dropped their custody suit. They ask only that Denny give them a couple of days to say good-bye to Zoe. Denny is under no obligation to grant them their request, but he does so. He spends his time preparing for Zoe’s return. One of his tasks is to make her favorite cookies.

While he is baking the cookies, the phone rings. On the other end of the line is Luca Pantoni, calling from Italy. Luca is returning Denny’s call. Denny asks him if the job offer he had made is still open. Luca tells Denny that the job is still his, and he looks forward to meeting both his dog and his daughter. Before Luca hangs up, Denny wants to know why Luca chose...

(The entire section is 548 words.)