Hearts

Overview

Linda and Robin Reismann barely know each other. The only thing that connects them is Linda’s six-week-old marriage to Robin’s father, who has suddenly died.

Widowed at twenty-six, Linda is heading to California to start over, uncertain what the future holds. In the trunk of her car, she carries her husband’s amateur paintings, along with his ashes. Robin, her silent, angry teenage stepdaughter, about to be left with relatives she’s never met, carries a private stash of pot and ...

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Hearts: A Novel

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Overview

Linda and Robin Reismann barely know each other. The only thing that connects them is Linda’s six-week-old marriage to Robin’s father, who has suddenly died.

Widowed at twenty-six, Linda is heading to California to start over, uncertain what the future holds. In the trunk of her car, she carries her husband’s amateur paintings, along with his ashes. Robin, her silent, angry teenage stepdaughter, about to be left with relatives she’s never met, carries a private stash of pot and some closely guarded secrets. But these two women, journeying on a road alongside drifters and dreamers, lovers and liars, will discover something they never expected to find–between them and inside their hearts.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Extraordinary . . . raises ordinary people and everyday occurrences to a new height . . . Hearts is a novel for our time.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“Splendid . . . flawless . . . Few readers will fail to be moved.”
–The New Republic

“There is something so gently comic in Wolitzer’s way of seeing things, and so vital in her way of recording them, that even the very familiar somehow seems fresh.”
–The New York Times

“Hearts breeds devotion to good writing and a hunger for more of the same. . . . A riveting, poignant story.”
–Detroit Free Press

“Wolitzer makes art of ordinary life. . . . Hearts is the kind of novel that almost reads itself.”
–The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345487513
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.29 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Hilma Wolitzer
Hilma Wolitzer
Hilma Wolitzer is the author of several novels, including The Doctor’s Daughter, Hearts, Ending, and Tunnel of Love, as well as the nonfiction book The Company of Writers. She is a recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa, New York University, and Columbia University. Hilma Wolitzer lives in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Linda and Robin become reluctant relatives after Wright and Linda marry. What effect did Wright’s death have on their relationship? What might have happened to Linda and Robin’s relationship if Wright had survived, or if they’d simply stayed on in New Jersey?

2. How does Linda and Robin’s cross-country trip con­tribute to their hostilities and to their rare moments of détente? Is a lengthy car ride the acid test of any friendship?

3. Stepmother and stepdaughter are close in age but markedly different. Sometimes they don’t even seem to speak the same language. But in what crucial ways are they alike? And what aspects of their respective histories connect them?

4. How is the motif of "hearts" woven throughout the novel? What are the key secrets that Linda and Robin keep from each other, and what finally compels them to open their hearts?

5. How do you imagine Linda at the Robin’s age–a teenager–and Robin at twenty-six? Are there times when they seem to trade ages and roles?

6. Hilma Wolitzer uses humor and pathos to tell Robin and Linda’s story, sometimes on the same page, as in their stubborn silence at the Howard Johnson’s in chapter 23, and when they spread Wright’s ashes at a rest stop in chapter 35. Have you experienced a desire to both laugh and cry on similar occasions in your own life? Does a comic vision help to leaven the pain of tragedy?

7. How important are the minor characters and a tourist’s view of the American landscape to the novel’s progress and the heroines’ emotional destination? Did the references to pop culture help to orient you in time and to place?

8. What role does Wolfie play in Robin and Linda’s relationship?

9. In what ways might Hearts be considered a feminist novel?

10. Linda’s dancing is the only thing she can do “with­out premeditation or fear.” She is physically graceful even when she’s socially awkward. Does Robin have a similar saving grace?

11. Did you feel as though the author had equal affection and regard for Linda and Robin? Did you sympathize or identify with one more than the other? How does your own status as parent or child affect your attitude toward the characters?

12. Robin has fantasies about her missing mother. What role do these dreams play for Robin? How does Linda help her to cope with her shattered illusions? And how does Linda use fantasy to deal with her own disappointments and losses?

13. Is Robin really “cured” of her longing for her mother by their failed reunion, or is she simply unable now to deny the reality of her abandonment? Does she carry another, unspoken, even unconscious fantasy about forming a new family with Linda? If so, what part does the news of Linda’s pregnancy play? How do you envision the future for Linda and Robin and the baby?

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