The Art of Racing in the Rain Summary
by Garth Stein

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The Art of Racing in the Rain Summary

In The Art of Racing in the Rain, Enzo, a dog, reflects on his life and tells the story of his owner, Denny. 

  • Denny, who is a racecar driver and mechanic, adopts Enzo as a puppy. Denny's wife, Eve, dies, leaving Denny to care for their daughter, Zoë.
  • Zoë’s grandparents sue for custody. This ignites a three-year court battle, which Denny wins with the help of Enzo, who promised Eve that he would look after Zoë.
  • Enzo tries to tell Denny that it's time for Enzo to die. Enzo isn't afraid of death, because he believes that dogs are reincarnated as humans.

Summary

The Art of Racing in the Rain opens with Enzo, a mutt who lives with his loving family, thinking about the nature of his life and soul. Enzo has always felt different from other dogs; he believes his body is just a shell and that his soul is human. He is old and almost ready to die, but he doesn't want his owner, Denny, to feel pain and sorrow over his passing. Enzo loves Denny and considers him brilliant and wonderful, and he wants to be reincarnated as a human so that he can find Denny in the next life.

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Enzo thinks back on his life so far. He was born on a farm in Washington state. His mother was indifferent to him, and he never knew his father. One hot day, Denny Swift, a racecar driver, picked him out from a pile of puppies and adopted him. Enzo had never seen the rain before.

In Seattle, Enzo and Denny watch videos together, and Denny teaches Enzo about driving. He says the art of racing in the rain is to drive gently, as if there are eggshells on the pedals that you don't want to break. After a year, Denny meets Eve, and Enzo worries that she'll come between them. In time, though, he overcomes his extreme jealousy and is able to see Eve as a person he can care about. Eve and Denny get married, and they have a baby, Zoë, when Enzo is two and has just reached adulthood. Enzo decides that he'll be Zoë's protector.

After Zoë is born, Denny begins working at a high-end repair shop for German cars. Sometimes he teaches at a high-performance driver's education program on weekends, taking Enzo with him. By the time Zoë is two, Denny and Eve are able to purchase a home. Denny gives a picture of the house to Zoë at her birthday party, but she doesn't recognize how exciting it is. Eve does, however, and cries when she realizes they're going to own their own home.

Enzo realizes that Eve is sick; he can smell the decay but has no way to explain to his family that something is wrong. He still feels unsure about Eve, describing her as his "rain" because she arrived as an unpredictable element that changed his mood and energy. A few years after they move into the house, Eve wakes up so sick that she vomits in the kitchen and tells Enzo she feels like someone is crushing her skull. She leaves the house with Zoë, leaving Enzo behind. Denny, who has been gone on a race, is furious when he arrives home to find Enzo has been left alone.

Eve remains sick, but she and Denny can't figure out what's wrong, and she is reluctant to see a doctor. Instead, Eve avoids the problem, and the relationship between her and Denny suffers. Denny does as much as he can around the house and helps take care of Zoë. At night he contents himself by playing racing games, which he'd never enjoyed before, but one day he is offered a seat in a touring car and has to leave home again.

Eve takes Enzo and Zoë to the home of her parents, Maxwell and Trish, whom Denny calls "the twins" because they are so similar. Maxwell and Trish are wealthy, but they are also the most unhappy people Enzo has ever met: nothing is ever good enough to satisfy them, and they constantly complain. Maxwell, in particular, complains that Denny doesn't do enough for the family and that Eve has to make all the money, and he and Eve argue. Denny starts winning races soon after this incident, however, and the family's life improves. They even meet people who are prominent in the racing community, like Luca...

(The entire section is 1,547 words.)