The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

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Chapters 1-3 Summary

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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 Washington. His mother was a Labrador Retriever. Denny was told that Enzo’s father was a shepherd-poodle mix, but Enzo likes to think that his father was the terrier who was the smartest and the biggest bully on the farm. The first view Enzo had of Denny was when he was a puppy. Denny picked Enzo up in his hands and lifted the dog out from the rest of the litter. Enzo remembers thinking that Denny, with his scruffy beard, looked wiry like a terrier.

Enzo loves to listen to Denny talk about racing. Denny believes the key to good racing is that the driver has to stay completely focused on the present moment. If a driver lapses into a single memory, he is setting himself up for a mistake. When racing, the driver cannot afford to think. A driver should only concentrate on action.

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Chapters 4-6 Summary