Synopsis: A couple adopt a depressed hedgehog; a mother is seduced by the father of her daughter’s imaginary friend; a man kidnap’s his ex-wife’s pet turtle. In eight tragi-comic stories, Einstein’s Beach House: Stories features ordinary men and women rising to life’s extraordinary challenges.
5 out of 5 stars
To be honest, I’d never even heard of Jacob Appel before reading “Einstein’s Beach House” and that’s just sad. I feel cheated. This book is a fantastic collection of short stories that span the scale from laughter to tears, some at the same time. There are eight stories in this book, all different but each sharing the same thread of the absurd human condition.
There were two standout stories in the book for me. The first, “The Rod of Asclepius” was my favorite. This is the story of a young girl and her father. The girl knows her father is not a doctor and yet she accompanies him on regular rounds to the local hospitals where he treats patients, beginning at the hospital where her mother died. Bringing his needle with him, he visits his chosen patients with his daughter at his side and asks her, “Are you ready to change the world, Princess?” Immeasurably sad and thought-provoking, the story ends as he hands her the needle.
“La Tristesse Des Derissons” (The Sadness of Hedgehogs) was amazing. This is the story of a couple (Adeline and Josh) who can’t decide whether to adopt a dog or have a baby so they instead adopt a hedgehog. Adeline decides that the hedgehog is depressed and they begin a series of animal psychologist visits and decide to put the hedgehog on Prozac. That seems t make the hedgehog manic, so he is then put on lithium. The poor, overmedicated, depressed, manic hedgehog is taken off his meds as they are affecting him so adversely and prescribed complete darkness. No light is allowed in the house as it will be too stimulating. The series of events ends in Josh out on a ledge with the hedgehog, both at the end of their ropes. This story was by turns hysterically funny and sad and really spoke to me about mental illness. It really is a crapshoot whether or not you get a competent doctor who will take the time to learn about you and not just fill you up with random medications.
The stories in the book were by turns funny, sad, and absurd. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read them and look forward to reading more by this author.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.