by Cindy Song, Managing Editor
For the first book review on this blog, I will be reviewing “The Liars’ Asylum” (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) by Jacob M. Appel, a collection of fictional short stories centering around the themes of love, identity, and lies. Each story is full of humor and wit, and illustrates the complexity of relationships in everyday life. Through the characters’ charming yet clearly faulty personalities—characters who dream, desire, regret, and fail—readers can find themselves drawn to the stories’ honesty and humanity.
Out of the eight stories, my favorite one would probably be “Prisoners of the Multiverse,” an intricate narrative about a childhood high school teacher that raises questions about self and the universe. The multiverse—defined by Appel as the “infinite reflection of alternative universes paralleling our own”—is a fitting title as the narrator ponders about the choices in her own life, encouraging readers to join in. The ending lines of the story are magical and hopeful, demonstrating the brilliance of Appel’s writing.
Every story in the collection focuses on a different storyline but each pulls on the reader’s heartstrings. Appel is brilliant at paying attention to detail, both in crafting his characters and plot. He is also wonderful at bringing to life the seemingly ordinary aspects of life—fittingly for the mission of Minute Magazine. I would strongly recommend this collection to anyone who wants a lighthearted and witty, yet strangely philosophical, read to reflect on the trials of daily life. By accompanying Laurie Jean, Maia, and the many other characters on their respective adventures, readers will be sure to leave with new insights and experiences.
Check out “The Liars’ Asylum” on Amazon!
Cindy Song is a freshman at Princeton University planning on studying economics and creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in Words Dance, Cicada Magazine, Noble Gas Poetry, and elsewhere. When not writing, she enjoys taking long walks and looking at dessert recipes.
Jacob M. Appel is a physician, attorney and bioethicist based in New York City. He is the author of more than two hundred published short stories and is a past winner of the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review‘s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review‘s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review‘s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award in four different years, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award, Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Mystery Stories, and the Pushcart Prize anthology on numerous occasions. His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012. Jacob holds graduate degrees from Brown University, Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Law School, New York University’s MFA program in fiction and Albany Medical College’s Alden March Institute of Bioethics. He taught for many years at Brown University and currently teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.