Study Guide

Annika in The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein


Sorceress, Witch, Temptress, Inflicter of Wounds

If there's one person Enzo actively dislikes, it's Annika, mostly because of what the repercussions of her actions are for Denny. When we first meet her, she's fifteen years old and staying for a long vacation with her extended family up in northern Washington somewhere. Enzo doesn't tell us where it is exactly, but we have to assume it's north, because it's cold and snowy.

Annika immediately comes off as a pushy teenager who takes an immediate liking to Denny. Enzo observers that she tries her best to get close to Denny whenever possible, to spend as much time with him as possible, and basically to be in his general proximity at all times. She even convinces Denny to let her leave the family gathering with him, presumably so she can spend ten hours in a car with him, and then—sneakily—set it up so she can spend the night at his house.

No, no, no. Bad, bad, bad.

Yeah, this whole thing is a mess. Denny is married and going through a tough time dealing with his wife's illness. Annika is fifteen, emotional, hormonal, and still going through puberty. Both of their emotional wiring is frayed, for very different reasons, and neither is using their best judgment.

When we were fifteen, we probably didn't use our best judgment either.

Oh, and did we mention that the whole thing would be illegal? 'Cause it would be.

Because of all this messiness, it's hard to really know who's responsible here, or who's initiating the situation. From Enzo's perspective, it's all on Annika: he sees her as a wild, unbridled vixen who's trying to take advantage of his poor Denny.

But that's the problem with a biased narrator: is the truth as Enzo's telling it the whole truth?

Maybe Denny did give Annika the wrong impression somewhere down the line, or maybe he unintentionally signaled to her that her attention was okay. Enzo even admits to us that maybe Denny wasn't without guilt in this situation. He asks himself why, when Annika says she told her parents that she would stay the night with Denny, Denny didn't take action to avoid that entire situation, for example:

Why he didn't take action at that moment. Why he didn't get right back on the freeway and drive up to Edmonds, where her family lived. Why he said nothing. I'll never know. Perhaps, on some level, he needed to connect with someone who reminded him of the passion he and Eve used to share. Perhaps. (25.32)

So while we know that nothing actually happens between Denny and Annika—Annika tries to get physical, and Denny scrambles to terminate that immediately—the emotional damage has been done, and it takes a toll on both of them. Annika feels betrayed by Denny, and Denny is at a loss for how to correct it. He probably hoped the whole thing would just go away on its own, but like it or not, his reaction to Annika caused a reaction within her, which made her angry and insulted. And she found a way to express it the only way she knew how: with a lawsuit.

Maybe she went to the Maxwell and Trish School for How to Solve Your Problems.