Study Guide

The Art of Racing in the Rain

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.

  • Chapters 1-5

    • Our main man—er, dog—Enzo assesses his life at the end of it. He wants to show Denny that it's time for him to let him go.
    • We recommend that page 1 is a great place to start crying.
    • Enzo's an old dog—he knows he is—and he doesn't want to prolong his life to the point of humiliation, even though he knows Denny would do anything to take care of him.
    • It would be a lot of care, though, because Enzo isn't a healthy dog. He has stiff joints that swell, and he has trouble walking. Still, he knows Denny would take care of him even until there's nothing left.
    • Enzo doesn't want that, because he knows he will become a human in his next life, a theory based on a documentary he saw about dogs in Mongolia who are buried in the side of a mountain so that they can be human in their next lives.
    • Enzo knows his soul is human, and he's waiting for the time when his body will also be human.
    • In fact, he has spent his entire life preparing for exactly that.
    • Enzo's resting at home when Denny returns. Denny finds that Enzo has peed on the floor.
    • Enzo has planned the scene this way—maybe he'll major in theater in his next life?—to show Denny that it's time for him to let him go.
    • If you haven't started crying on page 1, may we also recommend pages 2-8?
    • As Denny cleans up Enzo's mess, and Enzo realizes that he has miscommunicated his meaning to Denny.
    • Denny thinks that Enzo has had an accident because he was late, not because Enzo meant to show him how old he really is.
    • Enzo feels terrible for this, but he knows that it's hard for him to communicate when he can't speak.
    • Come on, the dog can't even write the words in his dog food? What a slacker.
    • Enzo thinks about how much he loves Denny, and about how sad he is that he's such an old dog. He hopes he won't hold Denny back from his future.
    • After Denny finishes cleaning up after Enzo, he puts on a tape of racing for him, which is one of Enzo's favorite things.
    • Denny has grown Enzo up on racing videos, and Enzo knows that Denny, who is a professional racer, could be as good as the professionals on the tapes if he were given the opportunity…And if Enzo weren't around to hold him back.
    • Again, any time during this chapter is a great time to cry. We mean that.
    • Denny takes Enzo for a walk and assesses whether he should put Enzo to sleep. Enzo worries that his plan may have worked a little too well.
    • But at least Denny is thinking about it. That means he's also preparing for the final goodbye.
    • Enzo knows that this is a step in the right direction, because humans really do have trouble letting go.
    • Are you crying yet? We definitely are.
    • Enzo talks about his birth, his parents, and his life on the farm in Spangle, Washington before Denny took him home.
    • Enzo's mother was a Labrador, and his father might have been a shepherd, but Enzo has his doubts.
    • For starters, Enzo's never seen a shepherd on the farm, and secondly, he thinks he's more of a terrier, because they're smart dogs.
    • And Enzo, bless his furry little heart, is a smart dog.
    • For example, Enzo knows the owner of the farm—the mean man he calls the Alpha—is going to try to cheat Denny by claiming Enzo's the best in the litter. (He is, of course, but we also might have a clear bias here.)
    • When Denny picks Enzo up out of the pack, we get a first look at him. Think of the claw scene in Toy Story, and we think it must have felt like that from Enzo's point of view.
    • Denny's not a bad looking guy, with his piercing blue eyes and his dark, unkempt hair.
    • Enzo suspects that Denny has a bit of terrier in him, too.
    • Which means the two will get along really well.
    • And, of course, they do.
    • It's the start of a dog's life.
    • So we've got the background on the dog. Now let's see some racing.
    • Denny talks to Enzo about racing and about all that it entails for a racer to be good.
    • Denny is a professional racer, so of course he knows what he's talking about.
    • Denny tells Enzo that things like balance, anticipation, and patience are vital for good drivers, and that they can't have any memory for what's happening in front of them. They must do, but they can't think about their own actions or remember them once they're done.
    • Denny begins showing racing videos to Enzo their very first day together.
    • Enzo thinks it's beyond wonderful that Denny takes the time to explain things to him about racing and about life.
    • Denny moves Enzo to Seattle to a neighborhood called Leschi, where Enzo enjoys the beginnings of bachelorhood with Denny.
    • Denny and Enzo develop a strong bond over racing videos, and Enzo is especially fond of the balcony overlooking the lake.
    • Enzo's part water dog on his mother's side, you know.
    • Then Denny brings Eve home.
    • Enzo feels protective of Denny and suspicious of this newcomer. He also feels a little surprised that Denny fell in love with Eve so quickly.
    • Enzo is especially jealous of Eve's opposable thumbs. He thinks that Eve is mocking him with them, because she can do things he can't.
    • Eve might have opposable thumbs, Enzo, but you're way cuter.
    • For a complete subject change, Enzo declares that monkeys don't deserve to have opposable thumbs.
    • Well, that's just one dog's opinion.
    • Enzo also admits that he's a bit of a TV junkie. Then he continues his tirade against monkeys, who he believes are less than fit to be genetically or evolutionarily linked to humans.
    • We blame it all on the fact that Enzo watches too much Discovery Channel.
    • Enzo also watches the History Channel and PBS—although that's mostly Zoë's preferred station—and says that watching these channels helps him think about his place in the world, the world in general, and what makes sense and what doesn't.
    • See, whoever said television couldn't be educational?
    • Enzo also shares that he believes dogs are more biologically linked to humans than monkeys. Case in point: the dewclaw and the wolf man.
    • We guess that might be believable, possibly?
    • We also think Enzo might just have an obsession with opposable thumbs.
    • But then again, opposable thumbs are pretty great: we wouldn't be able or write to text without them.
  • Chapters 6-10

    • Enzo can't help but compare himself to Eve, the well-groomed, opposable-thumb-wielding newcomer who seems to have captured Denny's attention.
    • Eve and Denny get married within the year, and nine months later, Zoë is born.
    • While Enzo likes Eve more at this point, he's a little jealous of the unborn baby, mostly because he knows he and Eve could never bond in the same way.
    • Enzo also hopes the baby might look like him, but we think there's a pretty slim chance that this baby will have water dog on her mother's side.
    • The moment of Zoë's birth is a point of contention, since she's born when Denny is in Daytona, Florida at a race.
    • Enzo steps in as a surrogate for Denny, vowing silently always to protect Zoë.
    • It's also a real bonding moment with Eve, which is sweet.
    • When Denny returns and ask Enzo if he's seen their baby, Enzo indignantly replies, "Did I see her? I practically birthed her!" (6.24).
    • Of course, Enzo is a dog, and Denny can't understand him, but we can give the dog credit where credit is due.
    • Life gets back to some form of order after Zoë is born. Denny goes back to work at the car shop and also spends time teaching racing for a little extra money.
    • Eve goes to work at a clothing company, but because Enzo isn't fashion savvy, he doesn't tell us anything about where she works.
    • Enzo laments his days alone until Denny leaves the television on by mistake and then makes a habit letting Enzo watch TV.
    • Enzo regales us with the joys of watching television by himself for the first time—he'd like to tell you that the Weather Channel isn't about the weather; it's about the world.
    • The Speed Channel also captivates him, but with an owner like Denny, of course it would.
    • The family moves to a new house, with a yard for Enzo to run in, which is his absolutely favorite thing.
    • In this new home, Enzo discovers the first signs that there is something wrong with Eve.
    • He wishes he could say something, but he can't.
    • Although if Enzo could talk, Eve would probably be offended to find out he thinks she smells like old mushrooms.
    • Unless that's what she was going for?
    • We get more racing talk, because if it hasn't become apparent by now, there's going to be a lot of racing in this book.
    • Enzo and Denny watch recordings of some of Denny's past races, with Denny playing the role of announcer, talking through the finer points of his game.
    • Eve also watches alongside them, and while she appreciates what Denny does for his craft, she admits that she doesn't understand it or think she could do it herself.
    • We feel you, Eve. We probably couldn't do it, either.
    • Denny also lays down the most important and inspiring quote in the entire book: that which you manifest is before you.
    • We recommend remembering this, because it will continue to be important.
    • Denny's applying it to racing here, but Enzo applies it to his relationship with Eve.
    • Enzo's been afraid to love Eve, because he's afraid she won't love him. This has led to their uneasy relationship.
    • Since Enzo can't give Eve a gift or tell her why he feels uneasy around her, he takes Denny's advice and follows Eve into the kitchen, purposely leaving Denny to spend time with her.
    • Eve notices this, because it's really unusual for Enzo not to be by Denny's side when he's home.
    • Enzo and Eve have a bonding moment while Eve's cooking dinner, full of belly rubs and snuggles.
    • Denny gets another racing opportunity at Watkins Glen and will be gone for some time.
    • The family is thrilled for Denny, but once he leaves, Eve's health declines, and she has a terrible headache one morning.
    • Cue the ominous music.
    • Enzo knows what's wrong—that darn mushroom smell strikes again—but he can't tell Eve, so he keeps her company while she panics.
    • Eve packs herself and Zoë up and flees the home, leaving Enzo behind.
    • Wait, when did this book turn into Home Alone?
    • Enzo pulls out of his narrative for another sermon on racing.
    • Enzo tells us that a driver will try to control the car in all forms of driving, to make sure he can keep control in all situations and anticipate any eventuality. This requires focus, drive, and an understanding of the car and how it works.
    • Having a driver's license also comes in handy.
    • Ideal driving conditions don't always happen, so when things aren't ideal, a driver must do the best he can to fix the situation.
    • Of course, this is advice for Enzo's next seventy-two hours alone. He doesn't have a driver's license, but we think he can pull it off.
  • Chapter 11-15

    • Back in the present, Enzo is stuck at home, alone, for three days.
    • Enzo takes stock of his situation and his supplies and prepares to fast for however long he is left alone, rationing the toilet water for hydration.
    • Indiana Jones would be proud.
    • On the second day, Enzo hallucinates that Zoë's zebra, one that her grandparents bought her, is dancing around her room, menacing her other toys, and then tearing itself apart.
    • Enzo also claims that while he's out of the room, the zebra also destroys all of Zoë's other toys, too.
    • Sure, that sounds legit to us, maybe.
    • Denny, Eve, and Zoë return home to see the carnage, and the overall mood of the reunion is disappointment, fear, and blame.
    • Denny actually hits Enzo, his anger is so all-consuming.
    • Whoa, dude. Not cool.
    • Besides, it was the zebra all along; Enzo was framed.
    • And unrelated but also related, Eve is miraculously better…how?
    • Once everyone calms down and Denny apologizes for hitting Enzo like a jerk, Denny shares a bit of good news about racing with Enzo. They have a cute moment of perfect understanding on the porch.
    • Denny actually tells Enzo that it's like the dog can understand him.
    • Well, of course he can, Denny. He's telling us all about your life. Duh.
    • Enzo assesses Eve's declining health with a scrupulous and intuitive eye.
    • Whatever's wrong with Eve, it's something none of them can control, and Eve will not go to a doctor or seek out what she considers Band-Aid solutions to her pain.
    • Enzo can't tell us more than he knows, because he didn't get his M.D. yet.
    • Denny and Eve try to reconnect emotionally and physically after months of Eve's illness, but it doesn't have the same emotional truth to it.
    • On another note, Enzo dreams of crows.
    • Because that doesn't sound like a scary segue at all.
    • On the heels of his dream about crows, Enzo reveals his dislike of crows.
    • This dislike stems from his belief that they are arrogant and angry and mocking, and when you're around them you want to kill them.
    • First monkeys, then (stuffed) zebras, now crows. What's next?
    • Apparently, crows also have a vendetta against Enzo, ever since the incident when they carried off a baggie filled with his poop, thinking it was free groceries.
    • We'd be upset, too, if we thought we were opening a bag of cookies and got something gross instead.
    • Enzo tells us that a group of crows is called a "murder", which can only speak of ominous things to come.
    • No one would want to call a group of crows "a snuggle," after all.
    • Denny prepares himself for another racing competition, and Enzo feels left out that he wasn't told about Denny's plans.
    • Maybe Enzo was too busy hating on monkeys and crows to notice?
    • While Denny is gone, Eve, Enzo, and Zoë watch his races on television, and when he returns one night, a quiet family gathering turns into a giant debacle. The sequence of events is as follows:
    • Zoë won't eat her chicken nuggets during dinner.
    • Eve tries to make Zoë eat her dinner. She thinks her Zoë is just acting up because Denny is back.
    • Denny won't take Eve's side and insists that they cook Zoë something else.
    • Eve won't make Zoë a hot dog.
    • Zoë has a tantrum.
    • Eve has a tantrum and goes into the kitchen, where she cuts her hand and again refuses hospital treatment even though she probably needs stitches.
    • Yeah…things could have gone better.
    • Also, Eve, seriously? Just go to the doctor already.
    • Enzo provides a detailed introduction to Eve's parents, Maxwell and Trish, otherwise known as the Twins.
    • They're not really twins, but they do dress alike. Maybe they have lifetime coupons to Banana Republic?
    • As far as parents go, and as far as "twins" go, these two not quite the twins from The Shining, but they could be.
    • Maxwell begins a tirade against Denny. Enzo takes this as a personal affront.
    • Maxwell gives Enzo a hot pepper that makes him feel sick, further showcasing the Twins' propensity for evil.
    • Enzo decides from that moment on that he won't take food from people he doesn't trust.
    • Good call, buddy.
  • Chapters 16-20

    • Denny is a champion, and there is much rejoicing.
    • Enzo gets introduced to a lot of famous racing names, including Luca Pantoni, who comes to Denny's house for dinner one evening.
    • Luca Pantoni, remember that name.
    • Eve thinks about having another child, and she and Denny connect emotionally again.
    • This involves going through the expected routines that couples do when one spouse is away for a great deal of time.
    • The family makes a pilgrimage to Denny Creek, but not because it was named after Denny. It could have been, but it probably wasn't.
    • Eve falls and hits her head while at the creek, and Denny finally, finally, finally convinces her that she needs to go to the one place she hates more than anywhere else: the hospital.
    • Maybe this entire thing is a blessing in disguise, because if Eve hadn't got this badly hurt, she never would have agreed to go to the doctor's.
    • Calling Doctor McDreamy? We have a patient who smells like mushrooms.
    • Enzo breaks again from narrating to tell us about a documentary he saw on National Geographic about a tribe in Mongolia that buries dogs high on a hill so people can't walk on their graves.
    • For someone who's narrating a story, Enzo sure likes non-sequiturs.
    • Enzo talks about this burial process, telling us that dogs' bodies go through some rituals so that the dogs' souls can be reincarnated as humans in the next life.
    • Enzo hopes this will happen to him, and he feels ready.
    • Enzo's love of this tradition stays with him for the rest of his life, so keep this in mind for later. #spoileralert
    • Eve's diagnosis is less than stellar: they find out she has a mass that's causing her mood swings, headaches, and nausea.
    • So Eve's not just growing mushrooms in her brain? Oh, dear.
    • Denny tries to grapple with this news while his friend, Mike, consoles him.
    • Mike takes Enzo home to take care of him while Denny stays at the hospital.
    • Mike gets Enzo home safely, and he and his husband Tony feed Enzo. Tony even washes Enzo's stuffed dog for him.
    • What an awesome couple. #relationshipgoals
    • Enzo bemoans the fact that, as a dog, he is not privy to all of the information regarding Eve's diagnosis, or her time at the hospital.
    • Yes, this is Stein getting a little meta with the audience, but we're rolling with it.
    • But it does make sense; otherwise Enzo would be the next Colombo.
  • Chapters 21-25

    • Zoë and Enzo share a moment of introspection in her grandparents' backyard.
    • Zoë is clearly coming to grips with Eve's illness—and with the thought that she might not have a mother anymore.
    • Enzo plays the role of bumblebee—because Zoë knows how to play dress up with the best of them. He's also a comforting companion, because that's what he's best at.
    • Zoë goes to "real school," a.k.a. kindergarten, and she takes the position very seriously. It's a milestone for her, and for Denny, and he and another parent share the moment of watching their children get on the bus.
    • Denny, Maxwell, and Trish discuss the logistics of bringing Eve home, and the Twins recommend that she stay with them. They're probably twirling their mustaches right now, giggling maniacally.
    • Eve returns. She is clearly very sick.
    • Denny still thinks Eve's beautiful. Cue our collective "awww".
    • Eve wants Denny to go home, because she doesn't want him to remember her as she is now. She wants him to think of her as she used to be.
    • Although Denny doesn't understand, he accepts Eve's request.
    • Eve also requests to keep Enzo for the night, because she wants him to protect her.
    • Enzo, of course, happily and bravely steps up to the plate, and despite a run-in with an unsavory maid who tries to lock him away in the garage, he is able to protect Eve from the demons hiding in the night, and she wakes up the next morning.
    • Trish and Maxwell think Enzo is lazy, but we know the truth.
    • And that's just further proof of how terrible the Twins are.
    • Denny is accepting of the new living arrangement, with Eve and Zoë living with the Twins.
    • Enzo and Denny get along well enough, reliving their bachelor days while Zoë is with the Twins.
    • As if the Twins didn't control enough of Denny's life at this point, Denny and Maxwell fight over which school Zoë should go to.
    • Seriously, are the Twins not the worst?
    • The Twins offer to enroll Zoë in private school, but Denny insists that she should stay in her current school, despite the fifteen-minute drive.
    • The Twins relent, but they don't stop being awful.
    • Denny, Zoë, and Enzo go to visit some of Eve's distant relatives at a ski resort during the winter.
    • Enzo doesn't really like Eve's distant relatives, because they're sweaty and loud and smelly and live in chaos.
    • Enzo particularly dislikes Annika, one of Eve's cousins, who seems to have attached herself to Denny like a fifteen-year-old barnacle.
    • Remember Annika, too, because things will get sticky with her later.
    • During the trip, Annika makes every available opportunity to be close to Denny, to position herself next to him, to touch him "innocently," and so on.
    • May we just say that this does not bode well?
    • At the end of the trip, when Denny decides to leave early, Annika jumps at the chance to go with him, and they make their way home in horrific conditions.
    • Think Blizzard of '78, but worse.
    • Okay, maybe not, but it does add to the dramatic effect.
    • Annika also manages to convince Denny to let her spend the night at his house, since the roads are too terrible to drive any longer, and she doesn't want to go home.
    • At this point, things could start getting into rom-com territory, but theydefinitely don't, because Denny is married and Annika is fifteen.
    • We repeat: this is not rom-com-y.
    • It's about as rom-com-y as Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
    • With a sleeping Zoë safely tucked away, Annika slips into Denny's bedroom with mischievous thoughts in mind.
    • Denny shuts down all of Annika's romantic insinuations and tells her to call her father to take her home.
    • Yeah, go home, you little barnacle.
    • We blissfully believe that's the end of that, not aware of how wrong we could be.
  • Chapters 26-30

    • Just when we thought this book wouldn't be about racing anymore, it is.
    • Winter turns into spring, and Denny gets an opportunity to work for a racing school, taking cars around the track.
    • Yay, some good news. Finally.
    • Denny takes a lap around the track for himself, and then invites Enzo to take a ride with him.
    • If Enzo could talk, his response would be, "Finally."
    • That was our response, too.
    • Enzo and Denny do a few laps, faster, then faster, and then faster still.
    • In case we didn't make it clear, they're going pretty darn fast.
    • Eight months after Eve's diagnosis, our protagonists have a party to celebrate "the first day [she is] not dead" (27.12).
    • That doesn't sound ominous at all, does it?
    • That night, Enzo has a dream that Eve is passing away, her soul leaving her body and escaping the pain and terror of her illness.
    • Enzo's dream comes true.
    • Yikes.
    • The next day, before Denny finds out about Eve, he takes Enzo for a walk in the park and makes plans for bringing Eve and Zoë home.
    • Oh, Denny. No. You're killing us, man.
    • Oops, bad choice of words.
    • Then Denny finds out about Eve.
    • In a moment of emotion, Enzo runs into the forest and eats a squirrel as an expression of his pain (cue another collective eww), and then takes a nap in the bushes.
    • Denny finds Enzo later and takes him home, where Enzo sleeps again and dreams of catching crows.
    • Denny takes Enzo to see Zoë and the Twins, where they argue about who should have custody of Zoë.
    • Great, like Denny doesn't have enough to deal with right now.
    • Maxwell and Trish believe that they would be able to provide more stability for Zoë. They also believe that Denny was never good for Eve.
    • Now the gloves are coming off.
    • Maxwell also tells Denny that if he had forced Eve to go to the doctor she might still be alive.
    • Maxwell then hands Denny an envelope that clearly contains a custody suit.
    • No, not that kind of suit, a lawsuit.
    • Let the throw-down begin.
    • Enzo, we know you love racing, but please stop breaking the fourth wall when things get juicy. No? Well, we tried.
    • This is worse than stopping a show on a cliffhanger.
    • Enzo pauses the narrative again to tell us that drivers have to prove themselves to be better than their competition in order to stay ahead.
    • Drivers also have to make sure they understand their competitors' movements—and make judgments accordingly.
    • Sounds like Denny could use this advice right about now. But, as a professional racer, we think he's got this in the bag.
  • Chapters 31-35

    • Okay, back to the story.
    • Zoë returns to school, and during her time there, Denny takes Enzo to a coffee shop where they meet a rotund and compact man named Mark Fein. It turns out he's going to become Denny's attorney in the coming proceedings.
    • Mark Fein also refuses to call Zoë by her first name, which is both weird and shows how little he actually cares about this case. Maybe.
    • Or we could just be projecting.
    • At least Mark takes the time to notice what a handsome dog Enzo is, so that's something.
    • Mark is prepared to help Denny, but he doesn't come cheap.
    • Lawyers usually don't.
    • While Denny goes to work at the car repair shop, Enzo sometimes joins him there, getting treated like a shop dog, an unofficial member of the work pack.
    • One day, while Denny is at work, a pair of police officers appear, carrying clubs and looking menacing, and the scene goes about as smoothly as we thought it would.
    • Denny is arrested on the charge of rape of a child in the third degree.
    • We told you that little barnacle Annika would be important later.
    • Need we say it?
    • Okay, we'll say it: ruh-roh.
    • Enzo explains that as a dog, he misses much of the process, including the court proceedings over last the three years. Denny has been embroiled in a custody battle for Zoë and a lawsuit involving the rape charges set against him.
    • So let's get this straight. Enzo can't go into hospitals, and he can't go into court. What is this?
    • It's like he's a dog or something.
    • Enzo recounts for us the legal processes and the following events using a mix of secondhand information and his background knowledge of Law & Order (including its three spin-offs), as well as The Rockford Files, Grand Prix, and Colombo.
    • What, no Judge Judy?
    • Maybe Enzo doesn't like CBS.
    • After Mark Fein bails Denny out of jail, where the police were keeping him after his arrest, Mark demands to know what this new lawsuit is all about, and we all have a pretty good idea.
    • We told you to remember the name Annika.
    • That little barnacle.
    • Mark impresses upon Denny the enormity of the situation, and how this new information could change everything in his case against the Twins.
    • Hasn't the poor guy been through enough?
    • Continuing on the path of sunshine and happiness, Denny comes to terms with the possibility that he could lose Zoë.
    • Mike and Tony drop Enzo off and encourage Denny to open up and talk about things. There's nothing wrong with expressing emotion, they say.
    • They're telling us? We've been crying since page 1.
    • Denny turns down the offer of solace and cuddles and instead turns to (dun, dun, dun) alcohol.
    • Enzo might be a patient dog, but he can't take Denny turning into his own self-pitying soap opera, so he barks sharply at him, which is his way of saying, "Cool it, man."
    • What Enzo's really saying is "Don't do it, Denny."
    • And we're inclined to agree.
    • Denny realizes that if your dog's disappointed in you, you should probably stop doing whatever you're doing—good call—so he puts the alcohol away.
    • Enzo forgives Denny this brief slip, and the two watch family videos together as they formulate a plan for how to get through this.
    • Are we sure this isn't a soap opera after all? Hallmark would love the rights to this.
  • Chapters 36-40

    • Finally, we get some rain.
    • We were beginning to wonder whether it was just a metaphor.
    • Denny and Enzo go for a nice long walk in the rain, which is a refreshing change of pace from the past three weeks.
    • Unknown to Enzo, Denny walks them toward Eve's funeral proceedings, where he's not allowed to be because of the lawsuit and the custody battle.
    • Denny gets into a confrontation with Maxwell and his two sons, and like a bunch of posturing peacocks, the four of them have a good old-fashioned intimidation standoff right there at the funeral.
    • We were kind of waiting for them to all start snapping and break into song à la West Side Story.
    • Eve's brothers blink first, and thankfully go off, probably to sulk somewhere.
    • Trish comes over to try to keep the peace, but it's clear that both she and Maxwell think Denny is guilty of the rape charge. Because clearly they don't know him at all.
    • Zoë offers comfort, as only a six-year-old could. Seriously, thank dog she's around.
    • In a moment of defeat, Denny retreats and watches the funeral from afar, Enzo by his side, and when it's over, they have a moment at Eve's grave before heading home.
    • Like we said before, Hallmark should seriously get the rights to the movie adaptation.
    • Enzo, now eight years old, is suffering from hip dysplasia.
    • Really? Hip dysplasia?
    • Okay, we knew that from the first chapter, but seriously.
    • It's like someone broke a mirror in here.
    • The day after Eve's funeral, Denny takes Enzo to the vet and receives the official diagnosis.
    • Enzo relates his own distrust of doctors, which stems from an incident at the farm in Spangle when he was a puppy.
    • Enzo had bad dewclaws since birth, and while he was still a puppy, the mean old farm alpha (remember him?) insisted that the vet cut off Enzo's dewclaws without even a little anesthetic. As if we needed more proof to hate him.
    • Enzo speaks about the inevitability of a terminal illness diagnosis. His car is going to go where his eyes go, and his diagnosis will eventually kill him, like Eve's killed her.
    • Sorry, were you expecting some good news here?
    • Since the custody proceedings are sticky and terrible, the Twins put a restraining order on Denny. He isn't allowed to see Zoë for seven months.
    • Cut to the Twins siting on their wraparound porch drinking mimosas and twirling their evil villain mustaches and laughing maniacally.
    • Denny needs to explain his absence from Zoë's life, so he and Mike Fein come up with the story that Denny is racing in Europe. That way the scary legal stuff won't bog Zoë down.
    • Denny also comes up with the story that Enzo is staying with Mike and Tony, so Zoë is allowed to visit him. During these visits, they play fetch, and they snuggle, and Zoë confides in Enzo about missing her father and hatching a plan to smuggle herself and Enzo to Europe to see him.
    • Enzo tries to communicate all of this to Denny, but his tongue fails him again.
    • Again, we feel the need to give Enzo credit for trying, because good dog, he's trying so hard.
    • Finally, some good news.
    • We know, we were shocked, too, but bear with us, because we're not pulling your leg here.
    • Denny finds a summer job teaching racing in Spokane.
    • In the meantime, Enzo goes to the Twins' house to stay with Zoë for the weekend.
    • Remember that weird dancing zebra scene that we didn't understand the first time?
    • Now there's a new zebra with a similar menacing glint in his beady little eyes hanging out in Zoë's bedroom, and it freaks Enzo out.
    • The next day, Enzo overhears the Twins talking about how Pete, Annika's father, brought forward the information about Annika's time with Denny.
    • The Twins admit that this information arrived conveniently after Maxwell complained that he and Trish wouldn't get custody of Zoë.
    • Come to think of it, the timing was pretty coincidental, wasn't it?
    • So…was it a setup?
    • It's kind of looking that way.
    • Where's Sherlock Holmes when you need him?
    • On the heels of this new information, Enzo decides that the Twins are now the Evil Twins, these people who plot and connive and throw their money at expensive lawyers to wear Denny down.
    • And like the loyal dog he is, Enzo hatches a plan to get back at them.
    • Enzo follows the Twins into the kitchen, and when Maxwell takes out his jar of hot pepperoncini, Enzo asks for one. He knows it will be bad for him, but he's seeking doggy revenge.
    • Trish thinks the peppers aren't good for dogs, but Maxwell gives him Enzo, anyway. Because he is stupid.
    • Enzo watches with disgust as the Evil Twins serve Zoë a dinner she doesn't like and then don't monitor her eating habits to make sure she's getting enough to eat.
    • The audacity.
    • The aftereffects of the pepper get to Enzo, and he leaves the Evil Twins a homemade present in the middle of their living room floor.
    • Enzo then happily slips into Zoë's room, growls at the demonic zebra, and sleeps soundly all night.
    • You go, boy.
    • Denny goes to a trial wearing the only suit he owns—and comes back with Zoë in tow.
    • Success, thy name is Denny.
    • Or not.
    • As it turns out, Denny's trial was just to squash the custody battle, and he has won visitation rights for Wednesdays and every other weekend. But the felony charge hasn't been figured out, and the Evil Twins still have custody of Zoë.
    • So…not as good news as we thought, but we'll take whatever good news we can get.
    • This respite gives Enzo hope that Denny can win this thing; he's a professional competitor, after all.
  • Chapters 41-45

    • Enzo takes a break from storytelling to lay down some more racing metaphors.
    • At this point, we're convinced that Enzo might become an entertainer or a show host in his next life.
    • This time the story is about one Luigi Chinetti.
    • Chinetti was a racer from 1932 to 1953 and is best known for winning the first ever Ferrari victory in 1949, when he drove more than 23 hours and 30 minutes of a 24-hour race.
    • Did the guy even take bathroom breaks?
    • Enzo wonders who possessed his soul after Chinetti died at the age of ninety-three.
    • Keep this concept in mind for later.
    • Yeah, we're talking heavy-handed foreshadowing here. #spoileralert2
    • A year goes by, with the same schedule of visitation rights for Denny and Zoë.
    • A year? Holy cow.
    • Denny spends his time with Zoë taking her places and teaching her things, enriching her mind and all that.
    • Because, you know, Denny's a good parent who doesn't deserve to have to fight for custody of his daughter.
    • Then there's the go-karts, which Zoë loves most of all.
    • Zoë's a natural at go-karts. Wonder where she gets it?
    • Denny places a bet with the go-kart worker that if Zoë wins, Denny won't have to pay for the round.
    • Denny's not convinced that Zoë can beat him, given his profession.
    • Zoë whoops Denny.
    • You go, girl.
    • But it can't be all fun and go-karts.
    • Back in the real world of adult problems, Denny and Mark have another discussion about Denny's payments, the trial proceedings, and, of course, Denny's payments.
    • Did we mention that Denny owes Mark some payments?
    • Denny owes Mark some payments. And Mark's not going to let him forget it.
    • Denny begs for thirty more days to get Mark his money, and Mark begrudgingly agrees.
    • Mark's not a terrible guy, but he does have to pay for his espresso addiction.
    • In order to keep Mark working on his case, Denny sells his house.
    • Enzo's less surprised by this news than he is upset that he lost his dog door and his backyard.
    • Denny and Enzo move into a little apartment on Capitol Hill.
    • Enzo tries to be a good sport about this change, but he really misses that dog door.
    • After Denny successfully pays off his account with Mark Fein—like literally right after Mark gets appointed to be a circuit judge, a non-refusable position that effectively makes him unable to work Denny's case.
    • Are you kidding us?
    • Denny's new lawyer, Mr. Lawrence, has none of the fire and spark of Mark Fein. He doesn't even have a first name. Okay, he probably does, but Enzo doesn't know it, so as a result we don't know it.
    • Maybe we'll call him Larry.
    • On top of everything, the Evil Twins now sue Denny for child support, asking him for money he clearly doesn't have.
    • They really are evil, aren't they?
  • Chapters 46-50

    • Okay, buckle up, because things are about to get even worse.
    • Yes, worse than they've already been, which came as a surprise to us, too.
    • The winter is a particularly bad one for Enzo.
    • Enzo's hips hurt, the cold makes him stiff, he's tired of the stairs, and he's tired of being a dog.
    • Enzo and Denny go for a walk one night in the light winter snow, and as Enzo sniffs and watches the flakes, he separates from Denny.
    • As Denny calls for him and Enzo bounds toward him, a wild car appears and hits Enzo.
    • Yes, things can indeed get worse.
    • We recommend that this might be a good time to take a break and grab your favorite snack, comforting stuffed animal—but no zebras—or to play some of your favorite music.
    • It's like Enzo can hear us, because he also takes another break from narrating to talk about Ayrton Senna, a racecar driver who died on the Grand Prix circuit in the town of Imola, Italy.
    • Good, we needed a break.
    • Remember Imola, Italy for later, too.
    • Enzo thinks about Senna from the backseat of the car that hit him, sitting in pain in Denny's lap. He wonders how Senna could have survived, could have walked away from the race, retired that morning without racing at all.
    • Instead, Senna ran that race, and when his car hit a dangerous turn, it flew off the track at one hundred ninety miles an hour and hit a concrete barrier.
    • That sounds…painful?
    • Senna's soul left his body because its mission was over.
    • Apparently, it was more of a "mission probable" than a Mission Impossible.
    • Enzo, by comparison, didn't die the night he was hit by the car because his soul still had work to do.
    • Isn't that a little conceited, Enzo, to compare yourself to a mythic racecar driver?
    • Well, the dog had a rough night, so we won't judge.
    • In the hospital, the vet examines Enzo and determines that he cracked his pelvis.
    • Oh, joy.
    • To top off this evening of grossness, Denny can't pay the $800 vet bill.
    • The vet's office allows Denny to write the equivalent of an I.O.U. and leave with Enzo.
    • The vast amount of gross misfortune that Denny has to deal with piles up on him that night, and for the first time, he admits defeat. We seriously can't blame him.
    • So, to recap quickly, Denny's been through his wife's brain cancer and death, a battle for custody of his daughter, rape charges and the threat of being labeled a sex offender, restrictions to his livelihood because he can't leave the state for work or racing, the selling of his house to pay his lawyer's fees, a lawyer switch-up, the injury of his dog, and he's just now admitting defeat?
    • Clearly we should never ask Denny what he'd do for a Klondike bar.
    • Scene shift.
    • Two weeks after this incident, Denny takes Enzo to Mike and Tony's house.
    • The weight of the moment is upon them all.
    • Mike tells Denny that his decision is sound, that settlement at this stage of the game is a smart decision, and that Denny shouldn't keep running himself ragged.
    • Mike hands Denny a pen with a zebra inside it so he can sign the papers.
    • That stupid zebra, again?
    • We really, really hate that thing.
    • Enzo makes the jump analysis that the zebra is a metaphor for our insecurities and fears and own self-destructive tendencies, and Enzo won't let Denny self-destruct.
    • Enzo tells Denny what he thinks as only Enzo can: he takes the papers off the table, dives through an open window onto the porch with them, stares Denny down, and urinates on the papers.
    • Gestures are all that Enzo has, after all. And he does all of this with a cracked pelvis? Maybe he could be the next James Bond.
    • Denny and Mike take the surprise of Enzo's behavior in stride, and the scene sobers Denny enough to tell Mike that he agrees with Enzo: he's not going to sign the settlement.
    • Yay, Denny. Don't give in.
    • There are some dog treats in it for you if you stay strong.
    • The time seems to fly by: Zoë gets taller, Enzo gets older, and life continues.
    • Maybe Enzo's telling this story in dog time, because he takes liberties with time jumps.
    • Denny starts working at Pacific Raceways again to earn some extra money to pay for Mr. Lawrence.
    • One day in July, a certain Luca Pantoni shows up at the racetrack and asks Denny to show him what he can do.
    • Remember Luca? We told you he'd be important.
    • Denny impresses Luca with flying colors, though not with all the colors of the wind.
    • Luca offers Denny a job in Maranello, Italy, at Ferrari headquarters, as a track instructor. He would basically get paid to test Ferraris and ride them around the track.
    • Whoa, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
    • Denny would love this job, obviously, but he can't take it, because he's not allowed to leave the country—womp womp.
    • Luca tells Denny he'll hold the position for him until after the trial is over and he can make the decision with a clear head.
    • Luca is basically a miracle worker, and we love him.
  • Chapters 51-55

    • We want to call this chapter the one where Denny makes peace with the barnacle.
    • You'll see why.
    • Denny takes Enzo for a walk one fall night, and they stumble into Annika.
    • Wow, it's like she's Beetlejuice. Say her name three times, and she appears.
    • Rather than roasting her on a spit, as Enzo enthusiastically suggests, Denny approaches Annika with dignity, sits down at her table, and tells her all about what's been going on, what the charge of rape of a child means for him, what her actions have caused him.
    • Oh, snap. Things just got real.
    • Annika's left feeling like the barnacle she is—at least, we can hope.
    • Denny leaves, feeling better, and thinking Annika heard his message.
    • Enzo, while disappointed that no one got roasted, is happy that Denny feels better.
    • And now for something completely different, Denny's parents come for a visit.
    • Say what?
    • So, they do exist, after all?
    • Denny's parents are alive and visiting for a few days.
    • Enzo is as surprised as we are that there wasn't more pomp and circumstance for Denny's parents' arrival. After all, no one's ever seen them before. Enzo probably thought they were imaginary, too.
    • Denny's parents meet Zoë, and that night, Denny's father gives Denny a check for his bills, the lawyer's fees, all of it.
    • Maybe Denny's father is actually Santa, because what else would explain his absence from Denny's life and his sudden appearance with magic, problem-solving gifts?
    • Denny's father says it's a way for them to do right by his son, and it seems like this will speak of good things to come.
    • We love estranged family members who show up with gifts and money. Especially money.
    • We then another discussion on the detail-oriented driver mind.
    • We get it, Garth Stein—this book is about racing.
    • Denny, a racer in his professional life and personal life, is nearing his last lap.
    • Holy moly, this better be the last lap. We don't know how much more of a struggle Denny—or we—can take.
    • More news on the parent front: it's time for some backstory.
    • As it turns out, Denny's estrangement from his parents stems from his mother's blindness, and from the fact that Denny moved out after high school.
    • Huh, and we thought the 'rents just didn't like Eve, since that seems to be the in-law stance in this book.
    • Denny's parents weren't a part of his life until recently because they didn't want anything to do with him until he told them about Zoë. Then they promised whatever they could to help, as long as they could meet their granddaughter.
    • Zoë's just a little day-saver, is what she is, bringing people together over her cuteness.
  • Chapters 56-59

    • Cue the Judge Judy theme music, because it's the day of the trial.
    • Enzo isn't privy to the trial's proceedings, so he makes them up.
    • To be fair, Enzo is a good storyteller, so the telling is quite dramatic.
    • In the meantime, Mike and Tony take care of Enzo, and he finds out about the trial later.
    • Enzo finds out that when Annika got on the stand to speak, she says she knew she was playing a game with Denny, but as a girl she didn't know what she was getting into.
    • Later that day, Tony gets a call from Mike to tell him there's been a recess, and Tony and Enzo rush to the courthouse.
    • While Tony and Enzo wait outside, Enzo has a dream that he, using a voice processor from Stephen Hawking himself, may address the court as the only witness to the evening in question, and he defends his Denny.
    • Stephen Hawking would be proud, to be sure.
    • We also want to know if a machine like that is possible, because we would definitely pay to know our pets' thoughts.
    • Someone please set up a Kickstarter for this technology.
    • When Enzo wakes up, Denny is there, with Mr. Lawrence and Mike.
    • Enzo finds out that Annika recanted her story, the charges against Denny were dropped, and Denny is free.
    • Thank goodness.
    • Cue collective breath of relief.
    • On the heels of this good news, the Evil Twins drop the custody charges, and Zoë is free to come home.
    • Thank goodness, times two.
    • Denny is making oatmeal cookies the night Luca Pantoni calls him back, and he lets Luca know that now that the trial is over, he can come work for Ferrari in Italy.
    • Zoë is also excited to go to Italy, knowing it will be a new adventure.
    • Pantoni reveals that he has chosen Denny as his mentee because Luca's wife died as well, and his predecessor at Ferrari showed him the same kindness and opportunity he is offering Denny.
    • This scene, we have to say, is as sweet as the oatmeal cookies Denny is making.
    • Okay, here we go. The moment we all knew was coming and still tried to avoid.
    • Do you have your box of tissues with you?
    • Good.
    • So, we're back in the present now, after all of this has been said and done.
    • Denny is making breakfast—pancakes, yum—in preparation of Zoë's return home, and Enzo knows it's his last day on earth as a dog.
    • We're crying already.
    • Enzo thinks about how people are afraid of death because death is the end, but because of that Mongolian dogumentary he watched, he knows that death will be only the beginning for him.
    • Enzo is ready to become a human and to take what he has learned from his doggy life into his next one so that he can be a good human and contribute to the world around him.
    • Enzo also decides that death is a choice, part of your car going where your eyes go.
    • Denny sees that Enzo isn't doing well, and he doesn't even have enough strength in him to eat some pancake—which is a real shame, because pancakes are delicious.
    • At this point, it's clear that Denny knows Enzo's not going to make it, and he tells Enzo that it's okay: he can go if he wants to.
    • That's it. We're crying.
    • Denny and Enzo sit together, remembering the life they shared.
    • Denny tells Enzo he knew they belonged together, and that Enzo has always been his Enzo.
    • Enzo loves Denny so much that in a moment of sadness, he misses Denny, and Zoë, and wishes he could see the next chapter of their lives in Italy.
    • Enzo foresees that Denny will become a Formula One champion like Ayrton Senna or Michael Shumacher. As long as they give him a shot, he will be up for the task.
    • Enzo realizes with a pang that he won't see his Denny shine in his future career, and he wonders if he's wasted his dogginess in waiting to become a human. Did he focus too much on the future he wants to care enough about the present?
    • We don't think so, Enzo. We think you've been a wonderful dog.
    • Enzo remembers the dogumentary again, which told him that dogs' souls, once released, are free to roam and play and feel the air and wind and sun before they are reborn, and he starts to see that field.
    • The field with its wide expanses and lush grasses sounds beautiful, but it doesn't make us any less sad.
    • In his last moments, with Denny by his side, Enzo thinks of this field, a wide, open field where he can run, faster, and faster, and faster.
    • Enzo thinks of Denny, who taught him that speed was only half the battle of racing, and that racers are selfless and don't think of themselves in the present, but instead as part of a collective whole.
    • Enzo steps out into that collective whole, with the breeze through his coat and good smells all around him.
    • Denny tells Enzo he loves him, and that it's okay for him to go.
    • And Enzo goes, running into that field, faster, and faster, and faster.
    • We tried to be humorous here, honestly we did, but our tears got in the way.
    • But nope, that wasn't the end yet.
    • Gather up your used tissues—you might need them again.
    • This chapter is from Denny's point of view.
    • As Enzo predicted, Denny's a Formula One champion, which people think is miraculous, "nothing short of a fairy tale" (59.1).
    • While reflecting at a coffee shop, sitting quietly by himself, a young woman who can only be Zoë comes up to Denny with a father-and-son pair in tow.
    • The young boy, whose name is Enzo, has a passion for racing.
    • The boy tells Denny that your car goes where your eyes go.
    • See? Those extra tissues came in handy, didn't they?
    • Denny thinks the boy reminds him of someone (we wonder who), and Denny offers him his card, with the promise that when the boy is old enough and feels ready, he will offer him the opportunity of driving instructions and lessons.
    • Yes, we feel incredibly warm and fuzzy inside, too.
    • But we're still crying.