information gathered from Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes and the AVClub
The novel follows the story of Denny Swift, a race car driver and customer representative in a Seattle BMW dealership, and his dog, Enzo, who believes in the Mongolian legend that a dog “who is prepared” will be reincarnated in his next life as a human. Enzo sets out to prepare, with The Seattle Times calling his journey “a struggle to hone his humanness, to make sense of the good, the bad and the unthinkable.”
Enzo spends most of his days watching and learning from television, gleaning what he can about his owner’s greatest passion, race car driving—and relating it to life. He watches as Denny marries Avery “Eve”, the birth of their daughter and then Eve’s development of brain cancer, which only he can detect through his acute sense of smell. Enzo eventually plays a key role in Denny’s child-custody battle with his in-laws and distills his observations of the human condition in the mantra “that which you manifest is before you.” Enzo helps Denny throughout his life, through his ups and downs.
Inspiration for the novel came after Stein watched the 1998 Mongolian documentary State of Dogs, and then later in 2004 heard poet Billy Collins gives a reading of the poem “The Revenant”told from a dog’s point of view.
Stein had originally named the dog “Juan Pablo” after Colombian race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya, but changed his name at the suggestion of his wife, naming the dog instead after Enzo Ferrari, founder of the famous Italian automobile marque of the same name.
The race car driving experience of the novel’s character, Denny, is based on Stein’s own experience in racing cars, and on another race car driver who is a close friend of Stein’s who was dealing with some family turbulence at the time. Stein moved from New York City to Seattle in 2001 and became involved in “high-performance driver education,” received his racing license with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and won the points championship in the Northwest region Spec Miata class in 2003. Stein left racing after crashing while racing in the rain.