This article is about the novel. For the film see, Christine (film)
The story is set in Libertyville, Pennsylvania.
While driving home from work, Dennis Guilder and Arnie Cunningham drive past Christine, a dilapidated 1958 red and white Plymouth Fury. Arnie makes Dennis stop his car, and examines the car. The car's owner, Roland D. LeBay, an elderly gentleman in a truss, comes out onto the lawn, and offers the car to Arnie for $250. Unable to pay the full amount, he settles on a $25 deposit and agrees to return the next day with the balance.
Arnie and Dennis return the following day, and LeBay invites Arnie into his house to sign the paperwork. While waiting for Arnie, Dennis decides to sit inside Christine, and as he does, he has a vision of the car and the surroundings as they were in 1957 when the car was new. Frightened, Dennis gets out of Christine, and decides that he does not like Arnie's new car.
Arnie brings Christine to Darnell's, a local do-it-yourself auto repair facility. As Arnie restores the automobile, he becomes withdrawn, yet more confident and self-assured. He becomes humorless and cynical. Dennis is scared of these changes, and of Christine's changes. The car is repaired haphazardly, and not all of the repairs seem to be done by Arnie. No one has ever witnessed him performing more than minor repairs and routine maintenance on the car. Also, Arnie's appearance improves in tandem with Christine's. When Roland LeBay dies, Dennis meets his younger brother, George, who relates to him Roland's past violent behavior. He is also told that Roland's young daughter choked to death on a hamburger in the back of the car, and then Roland's wife, traumatized by this death, apparently committed suicide in the car by carbon monoxide poisoning. Dennis's further investigations with others around town who had known Roland confirm to him that Arnie's new personality is becoming like that of his car's former owner.
When Arnie is almost finished restoring Christine, Leigh Cabot transfers to his school. Leigh is instantly popular and regarded as the most beautiful girl in school. It is a surprise to everyone when she decides to go out with Arnie. While on a date with Arnie, Leigh almost chokes to death on a hamburger. Leigh is certain that Christine was behind it, and when Arnie attempts to save her by hitting her on the back she notices that the dashboard lights on Christine seem to have turned into glaring green eyes. Leigh is saved from death by a hitchhiker, who pulls her from the car and administers the Heimlich Maneuver. Despite Arnie's protestations, Leigh continues to feel as though she is competing with Christine for Arnie's affection.
Arnie brings Christine home from Darnell's, but his mother, who hates the car, tells him that he cannot park it at the house. Arnie's father, Michael, takes a drive with his son and treats him to a 30-day parking pass at the local airport, thinking Arnie will only use his car when absolutely necessary.
Soon after Arnie begins parking at the airport, Buddy Repperton, a vicious bully who Arnie and Dennis got expelled earlier in the story, visits Christine with his gang of thugs and severely vandalizes the car. Seeing Christine destroyed completely infuriates Arnie, resulting in the severance of his relationship with Leigh.
Mysterious murders occur in Libertyville. One by one, members of Buddy's gang are killed by Christine. Others who were hostile to Arnie or Christine also die. The police investigate the murders and become suspicious of Arnie. However, Arnie has an airtight alibi for each of the murders, since the car apparently acts on its own. Although the police find paint chips at the crime scenes that match Christine's color, they find no damage, bloodstains, or other evidence on the car, since Christine supernaturally repairs herself after each attack.
Dennis and Leigh become suspicious not of Arnie, but of Christine. They try to find out as much as they can about the car and its previous owner. As their suspicions grow, they try to destroy the supernatural forces that appear to be in control of Christine and Arnie.
The novel ends on an ambiguous note. Arnie's father is found dead in Christine, apparently from exhaust fumes. Arnie and his mother die in an auto accident: witnesses to the accident saw three people in the car before the crash, but only two bodies were found. In the meantime, Dennis and Leigh manage to destroy Christine in Darnell's using a huge, pink-coloured septic tanker truck, named Petunia, and Dennis is informed by a police detective that the remains were fed into the crusher in the back of the garage by two police officers, adding that one received a bad cut that needed stitches, and said "it bit him". Dennis ends the story proper with a salutation to his friend: In the epilogue, set about four years later, Dennis reports that he and Leigh attended college together, consummated their relationship ("very satisfactorily"), but ultimately went their separate ways. Dennis is a teacher in New Jersey, Leigh a housewife in New Mexico. The last page details that, in Los Angeles, Sandy Galton (one of Buddy's gang) has died a mysterious death when a car burst through the wall of the theater where he was working, instantly killing him. The final words of the book convey Dennis' horror as he contemplates the possibility that Christine repaired herself and pursued him, and now may be working her way east, targeting Leigh and LeBay's brother and sister, saving Dennis for last.
The story was adapted into a film in 1983.