Man, oh man- this gentleman is brilliant! I might have guessed an “American author, bioethicist, physician, lawyer and social critic” according to Wikipedia, would produce some stellar writing, but still wasn’t prepared for how fully invested I’d be in each story in Jacob M. Appel’s The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street! The characters are so very developed and the dialogue is beyond reproach, something I fully appreciate since I struggle with it so much in my own writing. Tied together by the thread of hard-earned wisdom from the passage of time, Appel’s collection reminds readers that there is so very much more to a person–their trials and tribulations, their passions, their earth-shattering losses– than what meets the eye.
I’ve read short stories that go for the jugular. Kill off a baby, blow up an entire town. Effective, perhaps, but cheap, in most cases. Appel’s stories could not be further from that. Profound in his accuracy of portraying the human condition, Appel delves into ethical, moral, and spiritual arguments in this collection. Whether in the form of a comatose teenager or an elderly exhibitionist, he asks readers to consider a schema outside of their own. Things aren’t always as black and white, right and wrong, as they at first appear.
If you are looking for a smart read, pick up The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street from Howling Bird Press, “the publishing house of Augsburg College’s MFA in Creative Writing, which offers an annual prize that results in book publication, ” per its site. (Current submissions are open for poetry manuscripts and close June 30th!) The stories will certainly inspire much elevated dialogue at your summer barbecue or pool party! Speaking of, I can’t wait to dive into Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana, another of Appel’s superb short story collections.
*- I received a copy of this collection in exchange for an honest review.
Have you come across any life-changing short story collections, new or classic? What else should I check out? Comment below!