The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

Characters

Enzo

  • Protagonist (Main character)
  • Loving, caring, selfless, intelligent, wise, curious
  • Dog
  • Devoted to his owner Denny and protecting Zoe
  • Favorite food is pancakes

Denny

  • Dynamic character (one who experiences change over time)
  • Self-determined, devoted, loving, sensitive, selfless, intelligent
  • Husband, father and doglover
  • Has worked in various car shops and stores
  • Dreams of becoming a professional race car driver

Eve

  • Round character (one who has a complex personality)
  • Selfless, caring, self conscience, has latrophobia (fear of doctors and hospitals)
  • Wife and mother
  • Works for a retail clothing company (because it provides money, health insurance, and clothes for the family)
  • Recently diagnosed with brain cancer

Zoe

  • Flat character (has one kind of personality throughout the story)
  • Young, innocent, bubbly, loving
  • Daughter of Denny and Eve and friend of Enzo

The Twins (Maxwell and Trish)

  • Antagonists (enemies of Enzo/protagonist)
  • Stubborn, caring, straightforward, selfish
  • Mother and father of Eve
  • Grandparents to Zoe and Denny’s in-laws
  • Often wear matching clothes

The Zebra (the demon)

  • Antagonist
  • Evil, selfish, unpredictable
  • Takes over anything it desires and destroys it

Annika

  • Antagonist
  • Young, selfish, doesn’t have a lot of common sense
  • Eve’s cousin
  • Has a crush on Denny

Denny’s Lawyer

  • Flat character
  • Intelligent,personable, determined
  • Defends Denny when he is convicted with rape

Summary

The novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, intertwines humor, tragedy, and real-life dilemmas into the plot. The story is told from the perspective of Enzo, the dog who has witnessed many of the highs and lows of Denny’s adult life. In his old age, Enzo reflects back on his life, beginning with Denny picking him up from a farm and launching their life together. Soon enough, the two form an inseparable bond, and Denny confides in Enzo things he never would have told anyone else. Denny’s stories about his budding career as a race-car driver infatuate Enzo, and he feels as if he is a human trapped in a body without a dexterous tongue capable of speaking and opposable thumbs that would enable him to communicate back to Denny.

One day, Enzo’s master brings home a woman named Eve, and soon enough, the loving couple gets married and has a daughter named Zoe. Although Enzo feels his bond with Denny weaken slightly as he opens his heart to the two new additions to the family, he makes an effort to bond with Zoe and Eve as well. All is well in their lives, until Denny’s career takes off. This is great news for Denny, but not so great for Eve and Zoe, since Denny has to travel across the country for racing events, sacrificing time with his family. At the same time, Eve begins to develop headaches, putting strain on the relationship. Enzo is able to smell something wrong with Eve’s head, but is unable to do anything about it. Eve refuses to go to the doctor to see if anything is wrong, and hides her worsening symptoms. When a bad fall forces Denny to take Eve to the hospital, doctors discover advanced brain cancer, numbering her months left. The revelation crushes Denny and Zoe, and it is too soon that Eve passes away.

During the time that Eve was waiting to succumb to her illness, Zoe lived with her maternal grandparents. When Eve died, they were unwilling to let Zoe return to live with Denny, whom they had hated from the start of the marriage. The grandparents sue for the custody of Zoe, and are willing to do the unthinkable to keep their granddaughter with them, and Denny is forced to battle them in court, unsure what is going to be taken away from him next. The Art of Racing in the Rain tells the story of Denny in a way that only a dog could, and reveals truths about human nature from an outsider’s perspective.

Setting

In The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, the story mainly takes place in Seattle, Washington, often in Denny’s house in Central District. The house wasn’t in a very wealthy area, but Eve and Denny worked to maintain it and it was nicer than the other houses in the area. The city itself is often rainy, and is large enough that you can go hiking and be in the woods at one side (like where Eve fell and hit her head), or in an urban area with shops, offices, and parks (such as where Denny met with his lawyer). At times, the city can feel stifling to Denny and Enzo, since a big part of Denny’s career involves traveling to races and teaching events. When they spend all of their time in the city, it can bring back memories and make them both feel claustrophobic. Part of the story couldn’t exist if the setting was somewhere else, because Denny learned how to drive in the rain due to his experience in a rainy environment. Throughout the book, there are many metaphors that relate the skills needed to race well in the rain to life, so if the book were in a different setting, the same comparisons couldn’t be made. And, Denny is known for his talent where many other drivers tend to struggle, so there would have to be another area of expertise. If the story were to take place in a desert, for example, Denny might have to learn how to drive in a dust storm. Then, Enzo might be able to make connections to how one should get through life when they lack a sense of direction in life, rather than when they struggle to control their destiny. To sum up, the novel’s location in Seattle affects many of the connections and issues in the book, that would change drastically in a different setting.

Author Biography

Garth Stein is a well-known author of many books, including The Art of Racing in the Rain, A Sudden Light, and How Evan Broke His Head. Before he became a full-time author, he worked in the film industry and experimented with writing plays. Born in Los Angeles on December 6, 1964, Stein grew up primarily in Seattle, Washington. He was raised by a father descended from Austrian Jewish immigrants and an Alaskan mother. Some of his experiences with his diverse background influenced his writing today.

To launch his career, Stein got a degree from Columbia College of Columbia University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in filmmaking as well. Initially, he worked as a documentary filmmaker and produced and edited a couple movies, including The Lunch Date. Soon, he became a full time writer, and his third book was one of his most successful. The book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, was a New York Times bestseller, and was based off of the author’s own experiences racing. He wrote several other less notable books as well.

In addition, throughout his career, Stein made efforts to donate to charity. In fact, he founded a nonprofit group called Seattle7Writers. The primary goal of this group was to make reading more available and fun especially for those who couldn't afford books. One of their most effective fundraisers was when Stein gathered a group of 36 writers to write a book together in six days, and would be sold in print and digitally. All of the profits from this book went towards literacy. Currently, Stein lives in Seattle with his wife, three children, and dog.