Pub Date 01 Apr 2019
A naturalist tries to seduce the wife of an alligator wrestler; a nurse tries to conceal that a psychiatric patient has gone missing on a locked ward; a married harbor patrol officer and a Catalan phocidologist risk infidelity while struggling to rescue a pod of whales. In Jacob M. Appel’s ninth collection of short stories, his characters drift increasingly close to the edge of middle-class stability, always on the brink of toppling into the abyss.
“Amazing Things Are Happening Here is a delicious pleasure to read. The world of each story is so engrossing, so alive, I could not stop reading until I'd finished the book. Rich with characters that navigate their poor choices with sly humor and an absentminded grace, the book knocked me out. Jacob Appel is a short story artisan.”—Margaret Malone, author of People Like You.
I am happy to report that the United States has its own Chekhov in Jacob Appel. His stories illuminate the kind of questions that keep us awake at night—Is this love? How do I know for sure? Is anything certain in life? Whether they deal with adolescence, middle- or old-age, Appel’s stories depict with poignancy and quirky humor exactly what is at stake. “The Bigamist’s Apprentice” made me laugh out loud and should be required reading for anyone with a relative disabled by dementia. These are some of the best short stories I have read in a long time.—Enid Shomer, author of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile.
"The stories in Appel’s Amazing Things Are Happening Here are honest, provocative, and poignant. The characters are diverse, often adults interrogating their childhoods long past. They are acerbic, frank witnesses to the events that moved them from the naïve bewilderment of innocence to the sharper interrogations that rise from considered experience. These narrators are not jaded time travelers but earnest navigators seeking difficult revelation over easy closure."—Kerry Neville, author of Necessary Lies.
“In Amazing Things Are Happening Here, Jacob M. Appel tells the truth: Amazing things are happening here in each of these rich and tender stories. Never predictable, always insightful, with endings that are subtle and divine, these stories will stay with you long after they take your breath away.” —Jen Grow, author of My Life As A Mermaid “
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. Amazing, indeed.” —Bryn Chancellor, author of When Are You Coming Home?
“In his new short story collection, Amazing Things Are Happening Here, Jacob Appel renders our post 9/11 world through a variety of personalities, each narrating their unique and startling stories. Meet the shy high school student with a crush on a girl dying of leukemia, the mother whale who beaches to save her offspring, the search for the VA hospital’s lunatic who goes missing and never returns, and more. We are in the hands of a patient, master artist who watches the world unfolding around him, sees its protagonists’ inadvertent mistakes, and observes them endeavoring to reclaim their dignity. These stories lift us far above the realm of entertainment, and instead enrich and enliven the psyche’s oceanic heights and depths.”—Marilyn Krysl, author of Dinner with Osama. “
Jacob Appel’s recent stories galvanize into being characters whose helpless, undignified struggles against the riptide of “the hormone-frenzied expanse of adolescence,” the absurdities of maturity, and “the senile fancies” of old age are, at once, comic and pitiable. His closely observed, richly particularized narrators suffer the turbulence, perplexity, and self-deception of the “famished” heart – their ostensibly minor catastrophes acquiring, by this writer’s sympathetic recording of American vernacular life, a kind of tragic grandeur. A physician by profession and an authentic storyteller by compulsion, Appel wields his instruments with precision and humanity.” —Norman Lock, author of The Boy in his Winter.
"I don't know how Jacob Appel does it. I'm not talking about the fact that Appel is a physician and attorney and teacher in addition to the work that he does with a pencil in his hand. I'm talking, too, about the stories that he writes, stories that are uniquely his own, written with equal doses of heft, hilarity and heart. Amazing Things Are Happening Here is an apt title for a collection such as this, filled as it is with a sense of invention and evention or eventiveness that makes Jacob Appel about as original of a voice that you're likely to find if this is the kind of looking you are looking at this book to find."—Peter Markus, author of The Singing Fish.