Author: JACOB M. APPEL
Type of Book: Softcover
Length: 155 pages
Genre: FICTION, SHORT STORIES
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS
Price: $15.95 (and worth every penny)
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
~ I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS is a collection of eight short stories written by the amazingly talented Jacob M. Appel.
Story #1 – “Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets” starts off like this:
“Zigfrids Imants Lenc did not have a name on his home planet, because names were superfluous, but in Lummings, Alabama, where he operated the Latvian restaurant opposite the abortion clinic, his regulars called him Red Ziggy. The ‘Red’ did not refer to the young man’s politics. Customers at Cafe Riga found the eatery’s proprietor zealously neutral in political matters, as impervious to provocation as the mimes in Twelve Oaks Mall.”
How could you not want to read the rest of this story?
Story # 2 – “Phoebe with Impending Frost”
In Laurendale, Virginia, William teaches climatology at the local University. Add in an old flame and extreme weather changes and you have a thoroughly enjoyable tale.
My favourite quote from this story is “…I’ve always felt it was internal torment that separates a society’s wheat from its chaff.”
Story # 3 – “Invasive Species”
This story begins with: “While her daughter practices for the afterlife – Celeste’s tumour-frayed body waiting rigid inside the case of the grandfather clock – Meredith watches their new neighbor hacking at the undergrowth with a machete.”
If the opening sentence of this story does not pique your interest, you must not have a pulse. Once again, Jacob M. Appel has managed to captivate his readers with a single well-written sentence. That, is a rare talent!
Best quote from this story: “In his dungarees and black hooded sweatshirt, the long-faced man looks like the Grim Reaper on his day off.”
Story # 4 – “The Resurrection Bakeoff”
– This might just be my favourite story of the collection
– It has everything a reader would want in a great story: love, devotion, hope, despair, betrayal and one heck of a twist. This is a MUST READ!
Story # 5 – “The Orchard”
– This story showcases the extremes to which people will go for happiness.
– It also poses a few questions:
– 1. “Is a lie by omission still a lie?”
– 2. “Is it ok to lie to spare someone from pain?”
– 3. “Where is the line between being honest and being false?
– 4. “Can you ever REALLY know someone?”
– 5. “Are morality and mortality linked somehow?”
Story # 6 – “The Grand Concourse”
– “To celebrate her sixtieth birthday – she is now older than her parents when they died – my mother asks to take a daytrip. She has okayed it with the shrinks, she says.”
I LOVE THE FOLLOWING QUOTES FROM THIS STORY:
– “One man’s professional boundaries are another woman’s enforced celibacy. Did you ever hear such nonsense? I’m suicidal, not syphilitic.”
– “Unlike most of my friends, I haven’t yet reached the point where I’m counting on my children to make up for my mistakes.”
– “When it comes to verbal sparring, she’s Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson all rolled into one…”
Story # 7 – “Measures of Sorrow”
– “You can measure a man’s sorrow, and the world’s, in the number of stories that perish unheard.”
Story # 8 – “Shell Game with Organs”
– The perfect story with which to end this exquisite collection of tales that will touch your heart and your mind, and that will stay with you Long after the book has been read.
All the stories in this outstanding collection are entertaining and will keep you up at night reading “just one more page” over and over again.
While stories that are entertaining are terrific, that is not all there is when it comes to those contained within “Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets.” These stories are so much more than just enjoyable. They are deeply emotional, multi-layered and poignant tales of the human condition.
Jacob M. Appel is not only a writer, he is also a physician, an attorney and a bioethicist. The knowledge that he has gained through his various professions gives him a unique insight into the human psyche and translates extremely well, enhancing his stories and adding a depth which is often lacking when reading short stories by other, less talented writers.
If you are wondering what to buy for the reader on your Christmas list, look no further. This book has such a wide appeal that it is the perfect gift for anyone who is able to appreciate exquisite fiction. I highly recommend also buying a copy for yourself. This is one of those books that you can discuss at length and always find more and more wonderful things to say about it as well as an almost unlimited potential for moral and ethical debates.
I am not sure that my review does this book justice but I have tried to convey how much I LOVED reading this book. I rate it as 6 out of 5 Stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (I know that isn’t technically possible, but a simple 5 out of 5 just isn’t quite enough).
*** ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR “TO BE READ” LIST ASAP, You will be glad you did.
Don’t forget to check out his other short story collection: “EINSTEIN’S BEACH HOUSE” and read my 5 Star review of that book on my blog at https://amiesbookreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/einsteins-beach-house-stories-by-jacob-m-appel-book-review/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo. His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014. His most recent books include a novel, The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock, 2013), an essay collection, Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press, 2014) and a short story collection, Einstein’s Beach House (Pressgang/Butler University, 2014).
Jacob’s short fiction has appeared in more than two hundred literary journals including Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. His prose has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the Salem College Center for Women Writers’ Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award on four occasions, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008, 2013), Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007, 2008), and the Pushcart Prize anthology (2005, 2006, 2011, 2014). In 2003, he was honored with Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003.
Jacob has been admitted to the practice of law in New York State and Rhode Island, and is a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.
Visit his official website at http://www.jacobmappel.com/
Visit Jacob’s author page on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jacob-M.-Appel/e/B00FIG0XVM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.