By Lynette G. Esposito
The eight short stories in Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum are amazingly fun to read. The 168 page collection, published by Black Lawrence Press, explores common every day experiences with life twists that both surprise and confirm the human condition.
Appel is a keen observer of people interacting with their life situations. John Jodzio, author of Knockout, comments, ”I am in absolute awe of Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum. The stories here are magnetic and knowing, funny and inventive. Appel is a master of form—deftly able to conjure up pitch perfect characters whose lips spill out both truth and wit.” I agree.
In the story when Love Was an Angel’s Kidney on page 120, Appel narrates the story of a young eighth grader fascinated with a high school athlete who comes to her father’s camp for youth who need dialysis. The story, in true beginning, middle and end short story form, shows how love can happen and end anywhere. While the young girl would give up a kidney for her innocent love when she is skinny dipping with him in the camp lake, her financially inept father is losing the camp to the bank and his wife to his best friend. Her father never finds another woman for whom he would sacrifice an organ, but she wonders about her young love and if he still thinks of her. She asks: Am I what remains when an angel’s kidney evaporates in the past? This is an interesting concept when looking at love itself as it fades into the past but remains in the heart.
In Good Enough for Guppies, the story opens with Divorce infected the air last summer and Appel sets the scene for old women (78) seeking love in a variety of places all told from a candid observer who once in awhile participates in the story by suggesting the relationship he has with his own wife. The narrator, Gene, and his wife, Shelia, must deal with Shelia’s mother, 78, marrying a man in his forties with a Bronx accent. Shelia is almost hysterical because it is her mother and Gene attempts to understand survivorship in a long-term marriage. The story suggests and shows average people reacting to love at various stages in their life and how they react as well as judge others outside and inside the family.
Appel is a master of unique and inventive story lines that are well controlled, developed and meaningful. He sets clear scenes with unique twists that help the reader see and understand the characters in more than one perception and in more than one dimension. I enjoyed every story.
The book is available here: https://www.blacklawrence.com/the-liars-asylum/
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.