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Tired of laboring in city cubicles, Justine van der Leun sublets her studio apartment, leaves her magazine job, and moves to Collelungo, Italy, population: 200. There, in the ancient city center of a historic Umbrian village, she sets up house with the handsome local gardener she met on vacation only weeks earlier. This impulsive decision launches an eye-opening series of misadventures when village life and romance turn out to be radically different from what she had imagined. Love lost with the gardener is found instead with Marcus, an abandoned English pointer that she rescues. With Marcus by her side, Justine discovers the bliss and hardship of living in the countryside: herding sheep, tending to wild horses, picking olives with her adopted Italian family, and trying her best to learn the regional dialect. Not quite up to wild boar hunting, no good at gathering mushrooms, and no mamma when it comes to making pasta, she never quite fits in with the locals who, despite their differences, take her in as one of their own. The result is a rich, comic, and unconventional portrait about learning to live and love in the most unexpected ways.
“Justine van der Leun is blessed with the elusive gift of storytelling. In prose both lyrical and spare, she captures the beauty of a foreign land, the comedy of cultural clashes, the mystery of love lost and found, and, without ever dipping into sugary sentimentality, the unique bond between human and dog.The effect is utterly charming. I was engaged from start to finish.”
—John Grogan, author of Marley & Me and The Longest Trip Home
""Marcus of Umbria combines the personal journey of Eat, Pray, Love with the madcap adventures of Bridget Jones's Diary, all on a farm with a dog. Justine van der Leun's tales about love, adjusting to life in a faraway land, and losing her heart to the abandoned English pointer she rescues are warm, comic, and beautifully descriptive. I devoured this compassionate and sharply funny book in one sitting.""
—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“Marcus of Umbria is pretty much a checklist of everything that makes memoirs so great. Innocently hilarious cultural misunderstandings? Check. Biting wit coupled with delightful self-awareness? Check. Learning that sometimes soul mates come with four legs and a cold nose? Check. Marcus of Umbria is a thoroughly absorbing adventure sure to captivate dog lovers everywhere.”
—Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy
""A sweet, disarming story finds a young New York editor venturing to Italy to pursue romance with a sexy gardener and ending up falling for a neglected dog instead. In her straightforward, unembellished prose, Van der Leun recounts how she shucked her job editing the Letters page for an unidentified ""lifestyle"" magazine because she wasn't good at getting along with the other grasping workers, broke up with ""a perfect modern man"" who was also Mr. Boring, and spent a summer month at an acquaintance's house in Collelungo, a sheep-farming village of 200 souls in Umbria. There she met one of the town's sons, the handsome, earnest gardener Emanuele, whose entire hard-working, ample-eating, non-English-speaking family she grew to know and love over the year she returned to live in the town. But she was appalled by the younger brother's treatment of his animals, specifically the dogs he used for hunting, and nursed to health a sadly starving young English pointer she named Marcus. Over the year, the relationship with Emanuele did not blossom; but Van der Leun became crazy about her sleek, dark-headed fast-running bird dog-a female, it turned out, who needed quickly to be spayed. The author manages to capture the lovely, vanishing Old World ways of these tightly knit people, while also interweaving a heart-melting tale.""