Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets

Author: Jacob M. Appel

Type: Fiction, short stories

Published: 2015

I read it: April 2016

miracles

I received a free copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Appel is a solid writer for readers wary of giving short stories a try. These stories are straightforward but provide just enough quirk, with endings that make sense given the metaphors. While the writing touches on intellectual subjects (there are at least a couple higher education settings), the emotional drive remains the core for the characters.

A couple stories have an explicitly strange premise, such as the title story, in which the main character is an alien, and “Resurrection Bakeoff,” in which citizens unexpectedly return from the dead. Overlapping themes in the stories include naturalism (“Phoebe with Impending Frost”), elderly suitors (“Invasive Species,” “The Orchard”) and dealing with parental death (“The Grand Concourse,” “Shell Game with Organs”). Several stories include more than one of these concepts, and most feature a floundering male protagonist trying to balance life or love.

One strength of Appel’s writing is his solid grasp of American places and types of citizens. I bought every setting, such as this description of following a doctor through a hospital: “When we arrive at his office, we’ve somehow jumped from the twelfth story to the fourteenth without switching floors. Medical magic.” My favorite story might be “Measures of Sorrow,” in which an uninspired grad student is forced into friendship with a quixotic immigrant taxi driver who needs instruction on wooing a local woman. The intersection of these two lives makes the story crackle.

For a free Appel, I can’t complain about this sweet, refreshing snack of stories.

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