The Art of Racing in the Rain


Garth Stein

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The Art of Racing in the Rain Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Garth Stein

Garth Stein was born on in Los Angeles, California. His mother is from Alaska and is of Irish and Tlingit Native American descent, while his father, a native of Brooklyn, is the child of Jewish emigrants. Stein grew up in Seattle and attended Columbia University for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, earning a BA in 1987 and an MFA in film in 1990. After spending 18 years in New York, he returned to Seattle in 2001. Following his move to Seattle, he earned his racing license with the Sports Car Club of America and was involved with high performance driver education. He left racing several years later, after a serious crash that happened while racing in the rain. These experiences inspired the Art of Racing in the Rain. Before turning to writing, Stein worked as a documentary filmmaker and worked on several award-winning films, including The Lunch Date (1991), The Last Party (1992, featuring Robert Downey, Jr.), and When Your Head's Not a Head, It's a Nut (1993), which is a personal documentary following Stein's sister and family as she struggles with epilepsy, seeking treatment through surgery. Stein has also written several plays, the first of which, Brother Jones, was produced in Los Angeles in 2005 to glowing reviews. Stein is also the co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy by providing funding and donations of books to those in need. Stein lives in Seattle with his wife, Andrea Perlbinder Stein, their three sons, and a lab/poodle mix.
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Historical Context of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Enzo's favorite driver, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna (1960-1994) died in a crash in Imola, Italy, during the San Marino Grand Prix. Enzo asserts during the novel that Senna's death is shrouded in mystery, but official records state that Senna was announced to be dead at 6:40 pm in the hospital, although Italian law indicates that due to the extensive head injuries that caused his brain to effectively stop working immediately following the accident, time of death was actually 2:17 pm, or the time that his car impacted the wall. Under Italian law his death was investigated for criminal culpability, and one of his team members was tried for manslaughter. The accident was deemed to have been caused by a failure in the steering column brought about by an improper modification made by Senna's team, but due to the statute of limitations for manslaughter in Italy, the team member in question was never prosecuted. The final verdict was pronounced 13 years later.

Other Books Related to The Art of Racing in the Rain

Novels that explore the relationship between dog and man very nearly make up a genre all their own, and so The Art of Racing in the Rain can be said to share thematic connections with classics such as Old Yeller (Fred Gipson, 1956), Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawles, 1961), and Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo, 2000). The more contemporary A Dog's Purpose (2010) and its sequel, A Dog's Journey (2012), by W. Bruce Cameron, are both narrated by dogs and explore the relationships between men and dogs, as well as dealing with reincarnation, something that is a goal for Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Finally, The Art of Racing in the Rain can even be said to share broad similarities with Anna Sewell's 1877 classic Black Beauty, a study in both the kindness and cruelty humanity is capable of, told from the perspective of a horse who is at the mercy of whomever is caring for him.
Key Facts about The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • Full Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • When Written: mid-2000s
  • Where Written: Seattle, WA
  • When Published: 2008
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Novel, Family drama
  • Setting: Seattle, WA, over a ten-year period beginning in the mid-1990s.
  • Climax: When Annika drops her assault case against Denny, allowing Denny to take full custody of Zoë
  • Point of View: First person, narrated by Enzo

Extra Credit for The Art of Racing in the Rain

A Story for All Ages. After writing The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein went on to write a spinoff series of children's picture books starring Enzo, Denny, and Zoë, illustrated by R.W. Alley. The Art of Racing in the Rain has also been adapted into a young reader's edition.

A Win of His Own. Garth Stein was briefly involved with car racing in the Seattle area, and won the points championship in the Northwest Region Spec Miata class in 2004.