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Jack of Hearts
by Robin F. Gainey
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Jack of Hearts is a novel of literary fiction told from the point of view of a small, aristocratic dog named Shimoni. This imaginative first novel explores themes of fidelity and honor and offers a fresh perspective of Italian culture and amore.
Shimoni's passion for Italian cuisine and Elvis are rivaled only by his devotion to his masters, a Roman Count and Countess. However, his discovery that Il Conte is having an affair imperils his comfortable life and plunges Shimoni into a quest to rekindle his masters' love and preserve his home.
The path to reconciliation leads Shimoni from the bustling streets of Rome to his owners' rustic villa in the Italian countryside, where he outwits man and beast to save his family, all while making time to fall in love and sample the local Chianti. Shimoni's (mis)adventures yield poignant observations about the nature of love and longing, and the soul's ability to find satisfaction.
An intoxicating blend of adventure, romance, and joi de vivre, Jack of Hearts will appeal to literary devotees, Italophiles and dog-lovers. Author, Robin F. Gainey dishes up a sensuous story with plenty of heart, and empathy for the human, as well as the canine condition.
"A wonderful, funny and touching novel. Shimoni is not simply a dog, he is our guide; he is our friend. Stay by his side, stay with his heart, and he will take you places you haven't been, and show you things you haven't seen: after reading Jack Of Hearts you will understand the true depths of love and devotion."
--Garth Stein, The Art Of Racing In The Rain
"This novel has freshness, originality and a huge heart of gold. Shimoni is one of the most unforgettable narrators I've ever read, and does he have a story to tell! I loved everything about this book."
--Susan Wiggs, NY Times Best-Selling Romance Novelist, Just Breathe
"This is a most heartfelt and extraordinary work for a first novel. Ms. Gainey moves easily out of the realities of our everyday lives into an unexpected turn of canine spirit. It is an intriguing and wonderful read."
--Lynn Andrews, NY Times Best-Selling Author of Medicine Woman
Editorial ReviewNo editorial review at this time.
ExcerptI dropped my nostrils into the lusty odor. In the gutter beside me laid a large dead rat, belly bloated by a day or two of rot. I gave it an advisory sniff, and then stepped back. The rodent had taken on the warning of a three-day rule. Even a dog meant for hunting small game had limits. I considered giving the corpse a roll. The stink alone would be a credit. But the insinuating fragrance would prompt a bath. The day was young and already full of enough excitement. I glanced at the Contessa across the street as she smoothed her sweater and brushed a lock of hair from her brow. A few feathers of an unfortunate crow, no doubt picking at the animal’s decay hours before, swirled like spirits above her head—a warning to those who dared to pass. ... view entire excerpt...
Discussion Questions1) "One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with him, or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you maybe fall in again." —Judith Viorst, "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (Redbook, Feb. '75). What's your opinion of that? Are there really up's and down's in true love? How does it apply to the characters in JACK OF HEARTS? Does this ring true in your own life?
2) Do you think Raoul's La Filosofia dei Cani Nobili (page 239) applies to man, as well? If not, should it? In what ways?
3) Grazia say's "Signora, sesso does not define love,” Grazia continued, “but commemorates it. If there is love, sex reminds us...It cleans a lens clouded by the grit of every day: dirty socks on the floor, broken doors that go unfixed, anniversaries unnoticed. In that clarity we see again what we love. If love is absent, only emptiness reflects." Do you agree? How important IS sex in a marriage?
4) Do you believe that, as Gandhi said, you must become the change you wish to see? What is the most important way in which you might apply this to your own life?
5)) If you were the Contessa, how would you respond to the Count's infidelity? To his attempted advances in chapter one?
6) What factors do you think drove Greta to walk into the rush of Roman traffic?
7) What's missing from the Count's life? What's missing from the Contessa's life? What's missing from Shimoni's life?
8) Shimoni says that, in the end, nobility is "a title earned not by out shining another, but in simply out shining oneself." Do you agree? Can you provide an example of this in your life or another's?
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