karen's Reviews > Einstein's Beach House

Einstein's Beach House by Jacob M. Appel
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: free-from-work, hey-shorty

wow. that was surprising. damn, damn good stories here.

this is one of those books that i grabbed when it came across my desk just because i could. an unfamiliar author on a small press, "maybe it'll be a new discovery" kind of thing. i grab those books like popcorn, and they just sit on my desk, as my stacks of greediness accumulate and make me feel bad about myself as a reader. and then months later the author contacted me, asking me if i would like a copy of his book. i get a ton of requests, and i have to turn down 99% of them, because i just don't have the time to read anything except the things i read for that program-thing. but i had a break of A WHOLE MONTH, and i thought, "well, i already have it, and it's short and i'll earn some goodreads-author karma points and do someone a favor before indulging in this stack of books i have been drooling over, waiting for a break from program."

but shit - i ended up doing a favor to myself. because this book surprised me. despite the double-danger of "i don't know you" and "you are short stories," i genuinely loved this collection. it has a millhauser quality to it, but it isn't magical realism at all - it toes the line to where it seems like it could veer into magical realism, but it stops just before it does. except for the last story. maybe. and it definitely isn't grit lit, which is the other place my taste lives. it's just solid, well-crafted short story writing - a little dark without being sinister, a little melancholy without being broody - it toes that line in all things. it's very restrained. which is not to say that it is boring or "safe," but it's like fishing - the reader is given just enough line to feel untethered, but the author is always in control. of the 8 stories, there are 3 that i think are absolutely perfect. for me and short stories, that's statistically improbable. and yet.

i totally recommend this collection. and now i wonder what other gems are buried on my desk...

Hue and Cry (perfect story #1)

in which rex benbow - convicted sex offender - moves into thirteen-year-old lizzie's neighborhood and she finds herself caught between two powerful forces: her father, whose serious illness has taught him to face the world with forgiveness and so takes lizzie and her younger sister over to welcome rex to the neighborhood, and her rebellious best friend julia, who wants to break into rex's house and explore.

both of these are pretty shitty ideas, it turns out.

this story is so good. there is a density to it that really excited me. there are so many quiet layers to this one - familial duty, the lovingly competitive nature of girl-friendships, the awkwardness of poorly considered but well-intentioned gestures, the defeated exhaustion of someone under constant scrutiny, the moment of realization that even a father's power has limits.

and just enough foreshadowing to supply closure without feeling overhandled. a perfect opening to this collection.

La Tristesse Des Hérissons

this story has a wackier premise - a couple already experiencing some emotional and physical distancing adopts a hedgehog named orion that turns out to be suffering from depression. adeline devotes herself to orion's care, taking elaborate measures to treat him under the instruction of a veterinary psychiatrist. josh reluctantly follows suit, hoping to restore his relationship, as it's pretty clear that adeline is the one who is truly depressed. it's a tight and desperate story that edges towards farce while remaining dark and haunted. it's a good balance and it made me really want a hedgehog. so i can make a boat out of him.


Rabbi Cynthia Felder was newly married, and in her pulpit only six months, when a former lover asked to borrow the sanctuary.

this seems to be a simple story on the surface, but it has delicious tension. i had no idea where it was headed, on its journey through faith and fidelity and rage and the fine line between doing a mitzvah and being taken advantage of, or opening yourself up to woozy nostalgia. this one's got a quiet depth.


sad and gorgeous and true. the one who got away and was never truly had. the adoration of a charismatic and damaged fireball who never stayed still long enough to benefit from it. the lack of communication between the heart wanting what it wants and the head that totally knows better. the linger. just lovely. this one is not officially perfect, but it comes close.

Einstein's Beach House

a get-financially-solvent-quick scheme goes bad, a family falls apart. not my favorite in the collection, but there were a lot of really great lines and observations of the family dynamic. it's a little "surface-only" when compared to the rest of the stories in the collection, but it's still a good piece.

The Rod of Asclepius (perfect story #2)

dear god yes. this one. this is a truly original and psychologically ass-kicking story.

"She knows," says Aunt Henrietta. "But I don't think she really understands."

it is not possible to understand the things that people will do when grief takes over. some people react more … elaborately than others. there was jaw-dropping by me. if i had a heart to break, this one would have done it,

Sharing the Hostage

this story would be good friends with La Tristesse Des Hérissons. couples and their pets: what happens when they break up, and what happens to a new relationship when a woman loves a turtle she shares with her ex. (view spoiler)

Paracosmos (perfect story #3)

this one is the most jonathan carroll-y/steven millhauser-y of them all. and it is spectacular. it's the only one that ventures into the magical realism realm (oooorrr dooooeesss iiiitt?) but it is just perfect. dark charms and ambiguity abound. two huge thumbs up for this one.

a wonderful surprise of a book, and i'm so glad i put mira grant on hold. (sorry, mira grant - i'm coming!!!)

come to my blog!
124 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Einstein's Beach House.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

February 4, 2015 – Started Reading
February 4, 2015 – Shelved
February 4, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Good to know--seems like there are always first-reads giveaways for his books--maybe I'll try to win one. I feel like an idiot but please tell me what TK stands for--it's been driving me crazy!

karen oh, that's just journalism-speak for "to come." i'll probably write it up this weekend. also - there is another copy of this floating around at work if you want me to send it to you. i'm already going to the post office tomorrow with book-presents, so i can send this when i'm there.

message 3: by Andrea (new)

Andrea I sent you a private msg. Thanks for teaching me the fancy new term!

message 4: by Bud (new) - added it

Bud Mallar Sounds like a good one. No Kindle version at this time, damn.....

karen kindle, schmindle!

message 6: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa Bud Mallar - get it from whoever and convert the EPUB to Kindle with Calibre

message 7: by Bud (new) - added it

Bud Mallar karen wrote: "kindle, schmindle!"

I won it. And I can read easily and not have the floaters in my eyes be a bother. One solution to old age problems. Better than not being able to read.....

message 8: by Bud (new) - added it

Bud Mallar Eric wrote: "Bud Mallar - get it from whoever and convert the EPUB to Kindle with Calibre"

thank you for the tip. I left PC support many years ago - XP days - and spent my late life career on mainframes, so am no longer current on pc related info and software. I'll download and give it a try.

message 9: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa Bud wrote: "Eric wrote: "Bud Mallar - get it from whoever and convert the EPUB to Kindle with Calibre"

thank you for the tip. I left PC support many years ago - XP days - and spent my late life career on mai..."

No problem. Calibre's pretty awesome at managing ebooks. If the place you buy it from is DRM-free then it's a cakewalk to convert it to Mobi. If it has DRM, it's a bit more involved, but can be done.

message 10: by Bud (new) - added it

Bud Mallar Eric wrote: "Bud wrote: "Eric wrote: "Bud Mallar - get it from whoever and convert the EPUB to Kindle with Calibre"

thank you for the tip. I left PC support many years ago - XP days - and spent my late life c..."

downloaded. Now to find a place to buy it....

Claudia Putnam I gave this 5 stars also.

karen yay! agreement!

Melki I'm glad to see someone liked this as much as I did. You haz good taste, dearie.

karen we are both amazing at the taste-having!

Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ I love seeing indie authors win. And I love a delicious short story.

message 16: by Lea (new) - added it

Lea loved your review. funny, smart and just a little smartassy. :)

Elyse  Walters Great review ---I'm almost done with these stories myself...(taking a quick break before one more story to go)...
I laughed so hard in a few spots...(especially the Hedgehog when reading it to my husband this morning over Peets Coffee). I adore this author's wit - and creative storytelling. Have you read any of these 'aloud' to a loved one or friend? They come even that much 'more' alive!

Your review has electric energy to match Jacob's wonderful book! Thanks!!!!!!!

karen i have NOT read these aloud, but maybe i will read some to my cat later and see what she thinks. she is very discerning

Elyse  Walters You're great, Karen!!!! You cat will give you 'the cats eye' for sure!!! Prrr!!!!

message 20: by Leila (new)

Leila Cook I love Einstein!!!!!!

karen i just got two more books of his in the mail, so now i have moooore stories to dive into!

Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* karen wrote: "i just got two more books of his in the mail, so now i have moooore stories to dive into!"

Lucky you! What did you get?

back to top