Book review: ‘Luigi: Mischief & Love with an Italian Cat’

"Luigi" book cover
The 10 lives of a loveable cat
By Sally Rosenthal

Luigi: Mischief & Love with an Italian Cat by D.M. Jennings. Independently published, 2023. Softcover, 281 pages.

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Dana Jennings had a problem when she went to pick up her work visa to return to Italy after graduating from college. Her plan to go back to the boyfriend she had met as an American college student abroad hinged on obtaining that work visa. So imagine Jennings’ upset in line at the embassy in Chicago upon discovering her paperwork had been denied.

Not all was lost, however. A helpful official encouraged her to “just marry the boyfriend” when she arrived in Italy. Had Jennings not followed this advice, she would not have embarked upon marriage to Roberto, started a career, relocated eventually to California where she and Roberto had two sons, and — oh, yes — adopted a kitten in Padua, Italy. The kitten is the title character of her loving and engaging memoir, Luigi: Mischief & Love with an Italian Cat.

From the time the couple set up house, they knew a kitten would be in the picture. After the untimely death of their first feline family member, a scrawny gray kitten took up residence in their tiny apartment. Luigi, as he came to be known, soon won not only the couple’s hearts but also those of their neighbors. From his outdoor antics in the courtyard with other animals to his neighborly visits — some planned and others not, Luigi gained a reputation as a fun-loving and adventurous cat.

[Adventure cat discovers the world on hiking trails]

Many of Luigi’s biggest adventures, though, lay ahead of him. When the author and her husband moved to California, Luigi proved to be the world’s unhappiest international traveler — to put it mildly. Settling down in northern California, Luigi and the family grew to include two sons, another cat, backyard chickens, and a dog from a shelter. Throughout all the usual hustle and bustle of daily life in an active household, Luigi took everything in stride, even evacuations from mudslides and fires.

What comes out in Jennings’ book is just how integral Luigi was to the family’s life. Bonding with toddlers, acting as top animal family member, and offering comfort in a time of serious illness, Luigi was just his reliably loving self. That is the point of Jennings’ tribute to the kitten who grew up to be Luigi. He was there for 14 years, a feline presence who lives on in his family’s hearts.

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Book Reviews