EXCERPT: (from the short story Live Shells)The decades are creased into Donald’s face like the rings of a tree. He’s grown a beard, put on weight, sprouted hair from the cusps of his ears. I approach unseen in the shade of a coconut palm and listen to his speculations on the recent cold snap and the prospects for the upstate orange crop while Grandmama nods and smiles and clicks her knitting needles together as though she’s heard it all before. She was already an old woman when I married Donald and she can no longer tell the difference between strangers and long term acquaintances she’s since forgotten, so she hedges her bets, treating even the water-meter man and the Jehovah’s Witness proselytizers like kissing cousins. Donald is no exception. And me? I’m not sure how to proceed after twenty-one years, so I step into the afternoon sunlight, my jaw clenched to hold my composure, but at the very moment when Donald recognizes me, my eyes rivet to the double knot in the right sleeve of his shirt. I stare at the haunting spot where the limb should be, unable to avert my gaze, fully conscious that I’m behaving the perfect fool.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: “In his new short story collection, AMAZING THINGS ARE HAPPENING HERE, Jacob Appel renders our post 9/11 world through a variety of personalities, each narrating their unique and startling stories. Meet the shy high school student with a crush on a girl dying of leukemia, the mother whale who beaches to save her offspring, the search for the VA hospital’s lunatic who goes missing and never returns, and more. We are in the hands of a patient, master artist who watches the world unfolding around him, sees its protagonists’ inadvertent mistakes, and observes them endeavoring to reclaim their dignity. These stories lift us far above the realm of entertainment, and instead enrich and enliven the psyche’s oceanic heights and depths.”–Marilyn Krysl
MY THOUGHTS: What can I possibly say after Marilyn Krysl’s succinct and spot on observation except that Appel is an author who never disappoints, and that I read this wonderful collection in one sitting.
Appel is a master of human observation, and he conveys these observations into quirky and entertaining short stories that reflect our dreams and ambitions, our failings and frailties.
My favorite story in this collection is The Bigamist’s Accomplice, which I featured in my preview of this book on my webpage sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
THE AUTHOR: Jacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Award in 2012. His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize. He has published short fiction in more than two hundred literary journals including Agni, Conjunctions, Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and West Branch. His work has been short listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008), Best American Essays (2011, 2012), and received “special mention” for the Pushcart Prize in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013.
Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown University, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia University, an M.S. in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University, an M.F.A. in playwriting from Queens College, an M.P.H. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He currently practices psychiatry in New York City.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Black Lawrence Press via Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC of Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob M. Appel for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2718398730