Study Guide

The Art of Racing in the Rain Summary

By Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain Summary

This book begins at the ending: specifically, the end of Enzo's life. At this point in the story, Enzo is an old dog, tired and ready to move on to what comes next. He's preparing himself and his master Denny for their ultimate goodbye.

Yes, we are already crying at this point, too.

Enzo knows he's ready, but Denny certainly doesn't. Like most of us humans, Denny is prone to wanting to hold on. Enzo knows that because of this, he has to prepare Denny to let go, so what better send-off for man's best friend than describing the full life he and his master shared?

Cue the musical sound effects and wavy screen imagery that set up a flashback.

Enzo takes us back to the beginning, to his puppyhood on a farm in Spangle, Washington, where Denny buys him. He takes us on a tour of his whole life, from living the bachelor life with Denny in a small apartment to meeting Eve and learning to share Denny with her.

In the first year of Enzo's life, he learns a lot of about cars and car racing, which isn't surprising, since Denny is a professional racer.

In the next year or two, we see Enzo become the big doggie brother and protector of Denny and Eve's (human) daughter, Zoë. Through the rose-colored glasses of happiness and nostalgia, we also watch their trips to Eve's parents' home, to the beach, and, unsurprisingly, to the racetrack.

Sounds like a Hallmark movie, right? Well, real life is a little stickier than that. So, obviously, things are about to get worse.

Enzo watches Eve suffer silently from headaches that make her irritable and anxious, and while he can sense the darkness of a disease brewing inside her, he can't say anything to help. Well, he can't say anything, anyway, but he especially can't say anything to help. Eve is finally diagnosed with a terminal illness, one that she fights for as long as she can. But it's a battle she doesn't win.

Told you things would get worse.

Denny is left to grapple in a fight with Eve's parents, Maxwell and Trish, over custody of Zoë. Maxwell and Trish believe they can provide a better life for their granddaughter, and they see Denny as irresponsible, given his unreliable racing schedule and his low-paying job working at a car shop.

But Zoë is Denny's daughter, and he wants to raise her.

Enzo supports Denny through a prolonged, arduous lawsuit that Eve's parents initiate for custody of Zoë. Denny even ends up selling his home and temporarily giving up racing in order to maintain the lawyer's fees. Zoë tells Enzo about her hopes of moving back in with her father—even though her bedroom at her grandparents' house is arguably much cooler.

Just when things seem to be going as far downhill as quickly as they can for Denny, the ghost from winter vacations past catches up with him. There's a new debacle with a teenager named Annika, a distant relative of Denny.

At this point, we can hear you asking, wait who's Annika? Well, Annika is a pushy teenager who, when she doesn't get her way, wrongfully accuses Denny of sexual assault (it never happened). Enzo was the only other eyewitness to the ordeal, and while we had hoped at the time that Denny had successfully shut down the situation and that Annika was gone forever, that's not what's happening.

Conveniently, the news of this past situation crops up right around the time of the lawsuit, prolonging the process further and sticking Denny with a sexual assault charge that leaves him at the mercy of the judicial system.

At this point in the plot we're asking ourselves, "Can't we all just get along?"

No?

Okay.

The good news is that Denny is a racecar driver through and through, and as Enzo tells us, he doesn't play the short game: he plays to win. So, with all of these challenges thrown into his path, he still keeps his eyes on the road, maintains a steady hold of the wheel, and powers through.

At long last, Annika admits that she made everything up, the charges against Denny are dropped, and with nothing else to gamble with, Maxwell and Trish drop their custody battle. On the tail of this good news comes more good news.

Luca Pantoni arrives from Ferrari headquarters, promising Denny a mentorship, a new job in Italy as a car tester and track instructor, a serviceable home and schooling for Zoë, and the chance for Denny to race again. It's the best deal Denny has ever heard, and with his recently granted ability to raise his daughter in peace, this chance could not have come at a better time.

Basically, Denny's going to get paid to do his favorite thing in the world. #jobgoals.

It seems that all is back to normal, and in the happiest way possible, but there is one downside. (Ahh, you forgot where this book started already, didn't you? Better get some tissues out.) Enzo knows he won't be able to follow his Denny and Zoë to Italy. He's a dog, after all—a very old, tired dog, who has done just about all he can for his family.

When Enzo is done with his mental stroll down memory lane, he shares a final sweet moment with Denny. Realizing it's time, Denny lets Enzo go into a field where he can run faster, and faster, and faster, and never stop.

Yes, we're crying again. Pass the tissues?

At the very, very end, though we see Denny in Italy. One day, a father and son pair come to see Denny, and the boy, named Enzo, says to Denny that your car goes where your eyes go—something Denny himself frequently said to his old dog.

Enzo. Reincarnated?

Pass those tissues one more time.