Book Review: Robert J. Cooney reviews Jacob M. Appel’s short story collection Einstein’ Beach House

Jacob M. Appel’s latest literary offering is a collection of short stories, which shares the title with one of its featured pieces. Appel, as he is accustomed to, delves into subject matter revealing his familiarity and concern for topics relating to social consciousness. Throughout Einstein’s Beach House, the author shows he is unafraid to discuss that which makes the human psyche delicate. His stories explore the intricacies involved in personal relationships, and how dysfunction affects the resulting sentiments of his characters. In sincere Appel like fashion, however, he manages to address these topics while utilizing sarcasm and dry wit that is unmistakably his own.

Throughout, Appel aptly adjusts the perspective from which his narrators tell their stories strengthening resulting, residual, and ongoing feelings. One present commitment is reaffirmed after a comedic encounter with a past love. An unrealized bitterness results from a seemingly unrelated yet sweet distant memory. And even arrogance subtly unearths itself when reflecting upon childhood passion. But in my estimation, Appel’s best work within concentrates on the desperation individuals hoping to remain part of a couple confront.

In La Tristesse Des Herissons, Josh attempts to make a relationship with his girlfriend Adeline work. Adeline wants to take the next logical step in their relationship, and add a third. Josh believes a dog is appropriate, Adeline desires a hedgehog. Orion, the hedgehog, develops depression, leading to mania, and finally bipolar disorder. Appel showcases his sense of humor as he describes the ordeal Josh endures filling Prozac prescriptions without hedgehog insurance and reading Alice in Wonderland to Orion, something Adeline does not at all find humorous.

Appel has a remarkable quality of placing characters in uneasy situations. He sets a scene simply, using limited but precise physical descriptions of geographic locations, sensory inducing natural elements, and unforgettable moments in time. He understands strategic intimacy between people and has an uncanny manner of describing how those interactions between quirky personalities manifest emotions that range a full spectrum. Read, laugh, and enjoy.

Einstein’s Beach House, by Jacob M. Appel
(Available for purchase on Amazon.com)

–Robert J. Cooney

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