The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


Enzo (named after Enzo Ferrari) is Denny Swift’s dog and the narrator of the novel. He tells most of the story as a flashback, because in the present day he is old and sick and trying to convince Denny through his actions that he is ready to die. Enzo believes that when he dies, he will be reincarnated as a human and will finally be able to communicate with words. Even though he cannot speak, Enzo is good at making his thoughts understood—for example, when he destroys documents that he doesn’t want Denny to sign. Over the course of the story, Enzo comes to realize that the world is not as black and white as he had initially believed with respect to love, family, death, and evil.

Denny Swift

Denny has been Enzo’s owner since Enzo was a puppy. He is a skilled race car driver, and his job and team are very important to him—so much so that he misses the birth of his daughter because she is born during a race. Denny’s job means that he has to travel frequently, and this creates tension between him and the rest of his family. He is deliberate in his actions, and while he seems to prefer giving his choices a lot of thought, he is also capable of making quick decisions. Partway through the book, he is falsely accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl to whom he is distantly related, and this instigates legal problems that come back to haunt him when his wife dies and his in-laws try to take custody of his daughter. Denny is persistent and doesn’t give up on anyone, but he also has a hard time accepting it when people (and animals) in his family die.

Zoë Swift

Zoë is Denny and Eve’s daughter and Enzo’s friend. She is six years old during most of the story. Zoë is the subject of a custody battle between her grandparents and her father, and she recovers fairly quickly after her mother’s death. Being so young, she doesn’t always have the knowledge or the words to communicate what she is thinking or feeling, but she is inquisitive and surprisingly resilient.

Eve Swift

Eve is Denny’s wife and Zoe’s mother. At first, Enzo doesn’t like Eve because she intrudes on his relationship with Denny, but he becomes closer to her at about the same time that Eve begins to have problems with her health. After Eve goes to the emergency room for a head injury, it is discovered that she has a brain tumor, and the diagnosis scares her. She is afraid of doctors and hospitals, and Enzo becomes her confidant. After Eve’s death, Denny struggles to keep custody of their daughter.


Maxwell is Eve’s father, and Enzo often refers to him and Trish as “the twins.” Maxwell and Trish tend to dress similarly to each other, which is part of the reason behind Enzo’s nickname for them. Of the pair, Maxwell is the one who tends to initiate conflict, especially with Denny—for example, Maxwell says he wishes Denny had never met Eve. He is also involved in the custody battle for Zoë after Eve’s death.


Trish is Eve’s mother and Maxwell’s husband. She is quieter than Maxwell, but she still does what she thinks is right, and this includes fighting for custody of Zoë after Eve’s death. Trish believes Zoë would have a better life with her and Maxwell because they have more money and time than Denny does. However, she still feels guilty to some extent about trying to take Denny’s daughter away...

(This entire section contains 791 words.)

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from him.


Annika is a teenager who is distantly related to Denny and expresses romantic interest in him. During a family vacation, she spends as much time with Denny as possible and wheedles him into driving her the ten hours back home. When a blizzard prevents them from driving that far, she suggests that she spend the night at Denny’s house. Overall, Annika behaves manipulatively with Denny, and when he finally rejects her, she is angry. In revenge, she claims that Denny assaulted her and files a lawsuit. This causes problems for Denny, who is trying to keep custody of Zoë.


Mike is a minor character in the novel, but he is a good friend to Denny and offers him support during Denny’s legal troubles. Along with his partner, Tony, Mike helps care for Enzo and Eve when Denny is unable to. He knows when to offer help and when to give the family time to recuperate, and his support helps Enzo realize that love can be shown in many different ways.