The Art of Racing in the Rain is a 2008 novel written by Garth Stein.
The story concerns Denny, an aspiring racecar driver. He meets and marries Eve, a bubbly, happy young woman. Together they have a daughter, Zoë. Things go well for the family for about six years before Eve unexpectedly dies from cancer. Denny is then forced to battle Eve's parents for custody of Zoë, all while trying to balance his burgeoning career and several unexpected legal troubles.
What makes the book unique is that it's not the told from Denny's perspective, or Zoë’s, or even Eve's parents. The narrator is actually Enzo, Denny's dog. He provides commentary on the events as they happen and offers a unique perspective only a dog can provide. Along with Denny's main plot is Enzo's subplot about the belief that if he's prepared enough, he'll return after he dies as human.
It remained a bestseller on The New York Times for three years straight. Stein has written two other versions of the book: a YA adaption for elementary/middle school students, and a picture book for young children.
A film adaption was released on August 9, 2019, starring Kevin Costner as the voice of Enzo.
This book provides examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: In the film, it's mentioned that Trish and Maxwell's attorney coached Trish to commit perjury. That said, Denny's attorney seems like a pretty decent guy.
- Covers Always Lie: The book describes Enzo as a lab mixnote , but most covers have a golden retriever on them. The film also uses a golden retriever.
- Death by Newbery Medal: It's a Foregone Conclusion that Enzo dies, since he reveals at the beginning that the story is essentially him reminiscing on his life during his last days.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Denny goes through the emotional wringer over the course of the story, but he ultimately wins his custody battle over Zoë and goes on to a be famous Formula One racer.
- Easily Forgiven: Denny in the film adaptation lets Trish and Maxwell in Zoey’s life again sometime after he wins the custody battle.
- Everyone Has Standards: Annika was willing to use a False Rape Accusation on Denny as revenge for not falling in love with her, but after realizing how Eve's parents were using her to gain custody of Zoë, as well as how miserable he would be without her, she drops the charges.
- Evil Old Folks: Zoë’s maternal grandparents, whose ever escalating bids to gain sole custody of Zoë fuel most of the story's conflict. It’s implied that they might not even care about Zoë, but just want to keep her away from her dad.
- False Rape Accusation: Annika, one of Eve's teenage cousins, tries to get Denny to fall in love with her by taking off her clothes in his presence. He sternly tells her to stop and drives her home. When he tries to battle Eve's parents for custody of Zoë, they get Annika to say he raped her. However, after learning how miserable he is without Zoë, she drops the (false) charges.
- Green-Eyed Monster: While there are some warm moments between Enzo and Eve, he resents how much of Denny's attention she takes up and isn't afraid to admit it.
- Lighter and Softer:
- The YA and kid's versions of the novel cut some of the more mature content from the main book, such as Annika's false rape allegations against Denny and the infamous scene where Enzo imagines Zoey's stuffed zebra sexually assaulting her other toys.
- This same treatment is applied to the movie, where Annika is Adapted Out altogether, and this particular plotline is changed to a confrontation between Danny and Maxwell getting physical, resulting in the latter getting pushed into a pillar when he tries to attack Danny, and culminating in Maxwell filing charges for assault and using said incident as a pretense to take custody of Zoë. Likewise, Enzo's hallucination is changed to the stuffed zebra tearing apart its fellow stuffed brethren before it tears itself to pieces.
- Mature Animal Story: The Art Of Racing In The Rain is from a dog's POV, but it includes dark topics, such as a False Rape Accusation. It has toned down versions for younger audiences.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Trish in the film adaptation realizes how toxic she’s been and admits the truth to the judge.
- The Nose Knows: Enzo smells the decay emanating from Eve quite some time before her cancer makes itself known. Unfortunately, because Enzo is also a dog, he's unable to alert Eve and Denny to said threat before it's too late.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Trish and Maxwell start as this and get worse from there.
- Parental Marriage Veto: Eve's parents are not happy that their daughter winds up marrying a rookie racer with more dreams than actual accolades, to the point where after Eve dies they immediately try to get Denny out of Zoë's life by any means possible.
- Rags to Riches: Denny, who goes from penniless widower to Formula One champion. The book has others describe his meteoric rise to success in the face of all the adversity as nothing less than a fairy tale.
- Reincarnation: A major theme of the book, as Enzo believes if he's prepared enough, he'll come back as a human after he dies. The epilogue reveals he actually does and even gets to meet Denny again.
- Shout-Out: Enzo is named after Enzo Ferarri, the world-renown sportscar marquee.
- Those Two Guys: Mike and Tony, Denny's coworkers, share most of their scenes and provide some comic relief.
- Xenofiction: The book is told from the viewpoint of a dog.
- You Remind Me of X: Denny says this word for word when he meets up with a reincarnated Enzo in the finale.