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I received a copy of Jacob Appel’s The Liars’ Asy­lum for review pur­pos­es. As always, this review reflects only my hon­est opin­ions on the book.

The Liars’ Asylum by Jacob Apel

Pub­li­ca­tion Date:  Octo­ber 15, 2017

Genre: Short Sto­ry Collection

Pub­lish­er:  Black Lawrence Press

Paper­back: 176 pages

The frus­tra­tions of roman­tic love in its var­i­ous guises—a dom­i­neer­ing kinder­garten teacher for a dash­ing arti­fi­cial foliage design­er, a sui­ci­dal physi­cist for his star stu­dent, a dial­y­sis patient at a sleep-away camp for the camp owner’s daughter—provide the com­mon theme for the sto­ries in Jacob M. Appel’s sev­enth col­lec­tion. We meet a psy­chi­a­trist dab­bling with infi­deli­ty dur­ing a cri­sis in which rain turns into truth serum, a Finnish-Amer­i­can sol­dier charged with facil­i­tat­ing his com­mand­ing officer’s extra-mar­i­tal affair, and a cou­ple trans­port­ing a wealthy, “locked-in” patient across the Pied­mont to his new nurs­ing home. Appel’s lit­er­ary short fic­tion offers a quirky win­dow into the pangs and promise of love.

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My Review:

I’ve recent­ly returned to the fic­tion in my own writ­ing, so the tim­ing could­n’t be bet­ter for me to pick up Jacob Appel’s The Liars’ Asy­lum.  I was­n’t famil­iar with Jacob until he reached out about this review, but the reviews of his work were absolute­ly glow­ing. I had no doubt I was in for a treat with this short sto­ry collection.

And a treat it was!  From a tech­ni­cal stand­point, the writ­ing itself is absolute­ly beau­ti­ful.  For the first time since leav­ing school, I found myself grab­bing a pen­cil to under­line some of my favourite lines.  A per­son­al favourite?

“Maybe that’s what love is, really—wishing for a boy with­out kid­neys to become an All-State short­stop, a Major Lea­guer, a house­hold name, while know­ing that each of these suc­cess­es will car­ry him fur­ther into the stratos­pher­ic dis­tance, fur­ther beyond one’s own mere mor­tal reach.” —When Love Was an Angel’s Kidney

The whole col­lec­tion was enjoy­able, but, if I had to choose, my favourite sto­ries were “Pris­on­ers of the Mul­ti­verse” and the titlu­lar “The Liars’ Asy­lum.” Rebec­ca and Ian stayed with me long after I fin­ished the book. When I looked up at the sky at night, I thought of Vance scrib­bling out a star chart; when it rained, a small part of me won­dered if there would sud­den­ly be mass hys­te­ria of truth-telling.

Jacob Appel may have been a new author to me, but I’m sure his work won’t be a one-time read. I very well may reread The Liars’ Asy­lum until I can pick up my next of his titles!

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About the Author:

Jacob M. Appel’s first nov­el, The Man Who Would­n’t Stand Up, won the Dundee Inter­na­tion­al Book Award in 2012. His short sto­ry col­lec­tion, Scout­ing for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hud­son Prize. He has pub­lished short fic­tion in more than two hun­dred lit­er­ary jour­nals includ­ing Agni, Con­junc­tions, Get­tys­burg Review, South­west Review, Vir­ginia Quar­ter­ly Review, and West Branch. His work has been short list­ed for the O. Hen­ry Award (2001), Best Amer­i­can Short Sto­ries (2007, 2008), Best Amer­i­can Essays (2011, 2012), and received “spe­cial men­tion” for the Push­cart Prize in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013.

Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, an M.S. in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Insti­tute of Albany Med­ical Col­lege, an M.D. from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty’s Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons, an M.F.A. in cre­ative writ­ing from New York Uni­ver­si­ty, an M.F.A. in play­writ­ing from Queens Col­lege, an M.P.H. from the Mount Sinai School of Med­i­cine and a J.D. from Har­vard Law School. He cur­rent­ly prac­tices psy­chi­a­try in New York City.


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