Review of ‘Amazing Things are Happening Here’ stories by Jacob M. Appel published by Black Lawrence Press

This is a book that I selected to read on Netgalley, receiving a complimentary copy for an honest review.

What I like about these stories are that although set in different times, they highlight issues of humanity, making decisions and enduring the consequences and these themes remain throughout time.

The writing style is very engaging and absorbing. Sometimes it’s more about what isn’t written, they’re thought provoking and tend to raise more questions when you’ve finished reading, challenging perceptions and beliefs. 

Canvassing

This is a great story about a judge recalling the troubling story of a girl who was murdered during his youth. A massive twist with the last sentence, a wow moment. But then a while afterwards you’ll start thinking of lots of questions, all the ifs and buts and the influence of privilege and money.

Grappling

A story of blind love born out of tradegy, it’s a tale about being devoted to one person, despite them being really bad for you. It’s set in 20s Florida but still rings true today in the fact that people put up with atrocious behaviour in the name of love, whilst other suitors are ignored. 

Embers

This is a story about a male high school student, Zach, who falls for a girl, Vanessa. He doesn’t speak to her at school but gradually gets to know her and they become friends. Initially this seems another story about unrequited love and blind love but this is different, this time there is empathy and compassion so although they do not have a sexual relationship, their bond is strong and arguably is a much better outcome in the situation – although of course it never feels like that. It is a type of love, albeit a different type from the one Zach wanted. Again there are lots of after thoughts about themes such as destiny, accepting a future and not really questioning why you can’t follow your dreams. 

Helen of Sparta

I must admit, this one left me a bit confused initially. On the face of it, it’s a story about a teenage boy and his sister who pick up their drunk mum’s friend from the airport.  They take a detour to her old school before returning home when there is a sudden revelation. This is one that you need to think about and it came to me a little while after I finished.

The Bigamist’s Accomplice

A story about Arlene and her husband Benny, who is in a nursing home. He falls in love with another resident, Connie, and the story is about how Connie’s husband Jim arranges for Benny and Connie to pretend to be married. It’s a story about love, letting go and acceptance. That said, Arlene and Jim have totally opposite views on the subject, neither is right or wrong. How would you feel in this circumstances? 

Amazing Things are Happening Here

A story about the cover up of the disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric ward, it’s a tale about humanity, choices that we make and dealing with the consequences. At one point I even thought the nurse could be a patient fantasising, such is the thin veil between reality and fantasy. 

Dyads

A story about a woman, Penny, who takes a professor, Victor, and his daughter, Patagonia, out to see seals but ends up on a rescue mission for a humpback whale, it’s calf and male escort. Another story about the choices made and ultimately living with the consequences rather than changing circumstances. 

Live Shells

A story about May, who’s first husband, Donald, turns up unexpectedly whilst she’s found a new line interest in Tanner, her autistic daughter’s special Ed tutor. There’s a rather uncomfortable dinner with both men present and an even more terse boat ride to scatter the Ashes of May’s deceased mother ending up in a fist fight began the two men. It’s another story about choices, sticking by them and deciding, albeit 20 years later whether they are the right ones. 

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