Winter Honeymoon by Jacob M. Appel

winter
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Jacob M. Appel has done it again.  He has written a book worth reading on a plane train or in the back seat of an automobile. In his book, Winter Honeymoon published by Black Lawrence Press,  Appel presents nine short stories that introduce his readers to such characters as Edith, Dr. Kindler, Arnold, and others who are living surprisingly ordinary lives with ordinary problems.
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The nine short stories are interesting to read all at once or here and there on the beach or backyard deck.  The 171- page collection presents vivid locations, modern problems that explore the human condition in and out of love, and stories with clear and unflinching examination of complex truths of everyday people.
In his story. The Appraisal, beginning on page 20, he details the journey one makes when they know they are going to die soon and how those around them must face it as well.  The characters are well drawn and their viewpoints reflect on a society’s acceptance of endings—or not.
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The story ends with:
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                       Songbirds flitted in the trees. Wes would have known their names. 
                       Across the harbor rose Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, New Jersey. 
                       Several small children were playing in the wet grass illuminated by a
                       thin white beam of sun. Bert stopped to watch them. It was a perfectly
                       peaceful moment, the sort Abigail had treasured.   You could close
                       your eyes, and listen to the children’s laughter, and imagine that       
                       nobody anywhere, had ever died.
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Appel’s sense of place and situation is both emotional and literal which affects the reader in a direct and multidimensional way especially after the various conflicts in the story. In Before the Storm on page seventy-six, Appel tells the story of a son seeking an assisted living place for the father he loves.  The journey of the two looking for an appropriate place is realistic.  The ending is powerful as the old father tells his son he doesn’t want to live there and asks the son not make him. The son admits to himself he did not ask for this power over his father and cannot give him an answer.
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                           He is waiting for my answer, but I don’t have one to give.
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Again, Appel is very strong on situation and place and handles the deep emotion of an elderly parent needing an institution to maintain him in his final years and the son faced with decision to place him there because the choices are already predetermined.
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Appel has a remarkable skill of observing people in pivotal moments.  He has a light touch with ordinary conversations that become symbols of how difficult life can be in making decisions about the ones we love and their decisions about themselves.  The book is a great summer read but don’t expect to come out of this one unscathed. Appel is very good at lifting the veil of difficult truths and making us look squarely at them.
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You can find the book here: Winter Honeymoon | BLP

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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
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