My latest read is Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel. It is the first book I read by Appel, who has published several literary works. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of the short story collection.
I looked forward to the read weeks before I even opened the eBook because short story collections are not something I am often asked to review. I loved the title of the collection too. Then, when I started to read it, I found the characters in each story were well penned and rich in detail. I could imagine them in my mind. There were unique characteristics and situations within each story, including a woman who seeks a therapist to help her depressed hedgehog.
Here is what troubled me. After I had read the first few stories, I felt sad. Let me try to explain. The characters were so well explained that I took them into my heart as a reader. Then I felt so sad when many of them were put into debilitating situations without story endings that satisfied the frayed ends of their lives. It was like the ending just came, and they were left on their ledges (even one ledge, literally, of a building, at the end of one of the stories).
Yes, I know that not all stories end well, I get that, and, yes, of course, there are sad plotlines in books. But I like to see resolution or learning by the characters after the book’s climax. That is something I crave as a reader. And the stories in Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel did not provide me those conclusions.
So, I was left with a connection to characters who I felt were left flailing out there in the literary universe without ends to their ropes. Let me make this clear though: it is obvious to me that the writer is very intelligent. To come up with the book’s clever plotlines, you have to be.
In addition, I felt uncomfortable with some of the issues in the book. There was discussion of suicide, for example, that I was not ready to appear in the book. There was no mention of this subject in the author’s written request for a review or in the Amazon book description. I felt off-balance, unsettled and wondered why it didn’t appear anywhere. Or, am I to understand as a reader that those sorts of issues may come up in any book? I had trouble sleeping one night. Again, I took this to be my personal experience and am in no way saying the writer doesn’t know how to write.
Then, a coincidence happened. I read a new blog post by Tricia Drammeh titled “Let’s Talk About Trigger Warnings.” Wow, I mean, what are the chances that I would read this blog post at the same time I was struggling with the book? As Tricia wrote in her post, “I’ve used trigger warnings in the past. I used one with The Fifth Circle because that book deals with sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and mental illness.”
Okay! So, then I knew it felt less alone about having a disturbing reading experience. I had felt bad because I couldn’t finish reading Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel. I avoided it, I didn’t read any books, I watched TV instead. I didn’t want to end up depressed in a new short story in the collection. I read three-quarters of the book. Tricia’s blog post gave me strength at a time when I was really struggling with how to write the book review.
I do want to say there are many 5-star reviews of Einstein’s Beach House on Amazon. Again, I am discussing my personal experience. You may read it and love it. I enjoyed the characters but struggled with the some of the societal issues and the endings of the short stories. I give it 3 out of 5 stars, with the positive points behind the richly developed characters (although they broke my heart).
Read the book for yourself, and then we can compare notes! Find Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel on Amazon.
©2015 Christy Birmingham