Amazing Things Are Happening Here Review by Jacob Appel

Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob Appel

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Bryn Chancellor, author of:,  When Are You Coming Home? says of Amazing Things Are Happening Here: Jacob Appel writes with an assuredness and verve that is mesmerizing.  The Stories in Amazing Things are Happening Here kept me riveted with their vivid places, surprising turns, and unflinching examination of all the complex, flawed ways we live.—and reckon with—our lives.
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The eight short stories in Appel’s Amazing Things Are Happening Here are amazingly fun to read. Chancellor is right.   The 152 page collection, published by Black Lawrence Press, presents vivid locations, surprising twists that explore the human condition, and  stories with clear and unflinching examination of complex truths of everyday people.
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In the lead story, Canvassing, Appel presents a love story gone wrong as he reveals the passion political campaign workers have for the man they are supporting. The story focuses on the political bias in a love triangle situation that twists into a murder mystery.
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The story opens with I was once— briefly— a suspect in a murder investigation.  Bam! The reader wants to know more about this narrator who appears to be direct and honest with an outlandish story to tell. Yet, how do we get to the end of the story and wonder if the narrator is the actual killer of the beautiful Vanessa?
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Appel controls the storyline in all of his presentations.  In Embers, the third story in this collection, infatuation with a lovely young girl by an inexperienced teenager is the plot. The surprising turn is that this lovely creature has leukemia which changes her physical appearance so drastically that the young man cannot see her beauty.  Appel twists the story again to reveal how this has changed the young man to understand he will give up his dream to be a professional archer and that he will become a doctor like his father and give comfort where there is need.  The over concern the girl has for her firefighter father is a bit much for me but the subtlety of the characters becoming who they are make a wonderful read.  The title Embers is a well chosen symbol of a story that is coming to an end but isn’t quite gone yet as fire still sparks. This works well with the girl’s father coming through smoke and flame with the teenager who started a fire on his back. This is a fitting ending to a story of self realization. The ending does not close the door but suggests on-going situations.
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In the title story, Amazing Things are Happening Here, the sixth story in the collection, Appel begins: We were short one lunatic.  How do you save your job from a Code White because a mental patient has escaped?  You cover it up.  The story twists and turns on hiding the fact a lunatic has made his way back into society like a shadow when the light is turned off.  Much like a slap stick comedy, the psychiatrist, Dr. Brilliant, can’t see what is right in front of him.  The final paperwork discharges the lost lunatic and all is well. Jobs and reputations are saved with the exception that a mentally ill person is now free, on the streets and unaccounted for.  In order to protect our jobs and our lives, most of us have this flaw of self preservation.
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Appel uses standard fiction techniques in all of his stories.  His remarkable writing skill reveals his keen observations of people and their many idiosyncrasies. He has a light touch with symbols that makes the reader want to take a second look.  The book is a great read who likes complications and well-plotted logical resolutions.
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The book is available from Black Lawrence Press. BLP » Amazing Things Are Happening Here
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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.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
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