The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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What's a plot summary of The Art of Racing in the Rain?

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Garth Stein’s novel has two protagonists: a human, Denny, and his dog, Enzo, who is also the narrator. When the novel begins, the frail, elderly Enzo is reflecting on his life with Denny, with whom he has lived since he was a puppy, and on the concept of mortality. The mature Denny lives with his daughter, Zoe, and works as a mechanic. The young Denny had been a gifted but reckless racecar driver to whom Enzo became deeply devoted. Denny’s special gift was for racing in the rain.

Gradually Enzo had to adjust to Denny’s new girlfriend, Eve, who soon became his wife and not long after became pregnant. Enzo describes these events as he understood them from a puppy’s perspective. Enzo and Eve also become close when Denny is driving in a race when she goes into labor and delivers the baby at home, with Enzo nearby. She asks him to take care of the baby, Zoe, and his devotion quickly encompasses her.

Tragically, Eve develops a serious illness and the family struggles with her treatment and Denny’s frequent absences for races. Within a few years, she stops responding to or even seeking treatment. Because Denny is gone so much, Eve and Zoe go to live with her parents. After her death, the grandparents start a custody battle. Further plot complications ensue when Denny is accused of sexual assault by a teenage girl.

Enzo is allowed to visit Zoe at her grandparents along with Denny. Enzo develops arthritis and Denny goes broke paying legal fees. Denny’s parents, from whom he had been estranged, re-enter his life for moral and financial support. After the girl admits she lied and the case is dismissed, Denny gets a fabulous job as a race car driver in Italy. Before he can leave, however, Enzo dies. Denny and Zoe move to Italy and meet a boy who is Denny's fan, named Enzo.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the viewpoint of Enzo, the dog belonging to aspiring race driver Denny Swift. Enzo loves riding in the race car with Denny, cares for Denny's wife Eve as she dies of cancer, worries about Denny's daughter Zoe as she is taken from her father by Eve's parents. Enzo observes intently and thinks deeply - about the injustice of life as a dog (“Those monkey-thumbs were meant for dogs. Give me my thumbs, you fu**ing monkeys!”), about the foolishness of people ("So much of language is compromised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.”), and about the glory of struggling to accomplish great things.

The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles - preferably of his own making - in order to triumph.

The story traces the challenges faced by Denny as he chases his dream. Enzo observes and learns about racing, people, and life as he shares in the journey.

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