Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

From the first page, readers learn Enzo is an old, ailing dog. Having watched a television program on dogs in Mongolia, Enzo is convinced he will come back in his next life as a man. This excites him, and he’s ready to go. He just has to convince his master to let him.

Enzo narrates his life story, beginning with his puppyhood and adoption by Denny, an up-and-coming racecar driver. Enzo loves and admires his master, who talks to him about everything as if he’s human. They watch Denny’s racing tapes together, so Enzo knows a good deal about the sport. The dog also watches a lot of TV, which helps him develop his philosophies on life.

Enzo is annoyed when Denny meets Eve and she moves in with them. Eve and Denny marry and have a daughter, Zoë, and Enzo warms up to family life. Denny’s career success means he is often out of town. Eve begins having pains, which she ignores as long as she can. She finally agrees to let Denny take her to the doctor, and she learns she has terminal brain cancer.

Eve’s wealthy parents, Maxwell and Trish, urge Denny to move their ailing daughter into their house. They have more time and resources to care for her. They also want Zoë to stay with them. Denny is unhappy with the arrangement, but Eve agrees it is best for now. Denny continues his job as a high-end car mechanic, follows racing opportunities and visits his wife and daughter often. During this time, he dutifully takes Zoë to a family reunion with some of Eve’s relatives. A 15-year-old cousin named Annika becomes obsessed with Denny and wheedles a ride home from the reunion with him. Denny, Annika, Zoë and Enzo are caught in a snowstorm that puts them home 10 hours later. Annika stays at Denny’s place for the night, and tries to seduce the dead-tired man when she comes out of the shower. Denny refuses her advances.

Months later, the cancer kills Eve. Even before her body has been removed from their house, Maxwell and Trish tell Denny they want full custody of Zoë. They believe they can provide for her much more effectively than he can. Denny has little money to fight Eve’s parents, but he hires a lawyer. He eventually sells his house to pay for legal fees. He struggles to cover unexpected expenses, like a vet bill when Enzo is hit by a car. Police arrest Denny at his workplace, and he learns Annika has come forward with allegations of rape.

Although many people in the racing world are interested in Denny’s talents, the statutory rape trial means he’s not allowed to leave the state. For a while, he’s not even permitted to visit Zoë. The trial drags on for several years. Denny is broke and downhearted, but Enzo supports him and helps him persevere. Luca Pantoni, manager of the Italian Ferrari headquarters, visits Denny and offers him a dream job in Italy. Denny says life circumstances make it impossible for him to accept right now, as much as he’d love to say yes. Luca urges Denny to call him when his situation changes.

Denny has a chance meeting with Annika and her friend at a coffee shop. He kindly explains his predicament and pleads with her to take back her false testimony. Sometime later, she recants. Maxwell and Trish realize they have lost their advantage, and they drop their custody suit. Denny is finally free to take Zoë and go to Italy.

Enzo finishes his narrative as Denny makes preparations for the move. Enzo finally convinces Denny to let him die, and Denny holds Enzo as the dog runs joyfully into the vast fields of the universe.

An epilogue some years in the future shows Denny as a racing champion in Italy. Zoë brings two fans to meet him, a father and son. The Italian father boasts about his young son’s innate racing knowledge and skill. The son says how much he admires Denny and quotes one of the phrases Denny always used to say to his dog. The boy says his name is Enzo, leaving readers to suspect the dog got his wish to become reincarnated as a human.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Enzo gets his ideas about theology and the afterlife from TV shows. He’s convinced that some dogs are reincarnated to become men, and this is what he hopes will happen to him. He thinks a dog’s soul is released into the world until it is ready to be reborn. He believes in karma, likes the idea of assisted suicide and accepts all of Denny’s mantras that essentially claim a man can shape his own destiny with enough effort. He’s also convinced that dogs, not monkeys, are the closest evolutionary relatives to men. He looks at death as a demon and tries to save Eve from it. He eventually becomes convinced the demon is within each soul.

Authority Roles

Denny adores Enzo and views him as part of the family. Denny pushes through tragedy and despair, making a conscious choice not to drown his sorrows in alcohol. He keeps fighting for his parental rights and trying to prove his innocence despite the financial strain involved. After Eve warms up to Enzo, she talks to and relies on him like Denny does.


The Lord’s name is used in vain several times. The f-word, s---, p-cker, crap, a--, b--tard and b--ch also appear a number of times.

When Enzo is a puppy, a vet cuts off his thumbs (dewclaws) without using anesthetic. It is painful, and the dog bleeds a lot. Angry after Eve’s death, Enzo attacks, crushes and eats a squirrel.


Enzo witnesses and describes several sexual encounters (including pre-marital sex) between Denny and Eve. He talks about them being naked, rolling around and mounting each other. Eve and Denny joke about using a turkey baster to inseminate her with Denny’s pre-extracted sperm because he is gone so often.

Enzo sees and describes Annika getting naked and attempting to seduce Denny. He makes it clear to readers that Denny does not respond to her advances. Annika later accuses Denny of rape, and he spends years in court trying to prove his innocence.

Enzo mentions dogs mounting one another and talks about a movie where a girl and a bear are copulating. Some scenes are described with words like breasts, balls and erection. Denny’s friend Mike lives with his male life partner.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

A movie version of this book, starring Kevin Costner, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2019.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Garth Stein






Record Label



Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!