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Fiction. The eight stories in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET are smart, funny, and humane. In "Bioethics for Dunces," which takes its name from the title of a college course its main character Leonard teaches, Leonard suddenly finds that academic and abstract issues are all too real when his own daughter goes on life support. He and his wife disagree about what to do Fiction. The eight stories in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET are smart, funny, and humane. In "Bioethics for Dunces," which takes its name from the title of a college course its main character Leonard teaches, Leonard suddenly finds that academic and abstract issues are all too real when his own daughter goes on life support. He and his wife disagree about what to do. A quote from this story speaks to the philosophical quandary that many of these stories explore: "The underlying problem was that Leonard's situation lacked a governing social convention." Many of Appel's stories feature characters grappling with moral, ethical, and philosophical situations that lack governing social conventions. His stories show how ethics something that sounds like an academic abstraction can be concrete, visceral, and immediate. With compassion, wit, humor, and intelligence, these stories explore the gray areas of our lives. Echoes of myth, fairy tale, and fable flavor them, underscoring the eternal nature of both the human condition and storytelling itself. In a starred review Kirkus Reviews described Jacob Appel's THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET as a collection of "well- constructed stories that sharply but compassionately observe people trying to make sense of life's disruptions" and that "come to...thoughtful, often wrenching conclusions."


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Fiction. The eight stories in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET are smart, funny, and humane. In "Bioethics for Dunces," which takes its name from the title of a college course its main character Leonard teaches, Leonard suddenly finds that academic and abstract issues are all too real when his own daughter goes on life support. He and his wife disagree about what to do Fiction. The eight stories in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET are smart, funny, and humane. In "Bioethics for Dunces," which takes its name from the title of a college course its main character Leonard teaches, Leonard suddenly finds that academic and abstract issues are all too real when his own daughter goes on life support. He and his wife disagree about what to do. A quote from this story speaks to the philosophical quandary that many of these stories explore: "The underlying problem was that Leonard's situation lacked a governing social convention." Many of Appel's stories feature characters grappling with moral, ethical, and philosophical situations that lack governing social conventions. His stories show how ethics something that sounds like an academic abstraction can be concrete, visceral, and immediate. With compassion, wit, humor, and intelligence, these stories explore the gray areas of our lives. Echoes of myth, fairy tale, and fable flavor them, underscoring the eternal nature of both the human condition and storytelling itself. In a starred review Kirkus Reviews described Jacob Appel's THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET as a collection of "well- constructed stories that sharply but compassionately observe people trying to make sense of life's disruptions" and that "come to...thoughtful, often wrenching conclusions."

30 review for The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    There is something about Jacob M Appel's writing that moves me to the core. He possesses a rare insight into human nature. His characters stay with me long after I have finished their stories. I can never read his tales without learning something new. He inspires me, and makes me long to be able to write. Every new collection of his work is somehow better than his last. He has become one of my all time favourite authors. The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street is a collection of eight stories detaili There is something about Jacob M Appel's writing that moves me to the core. He possesses a rare insight into human nature. His characters stay with me long after I have finished their stories. I can never read his tales without learning something new. He inspires me, and makes me long to be able to write. Every new collection of his work is somehow better than his last. He has become one of my all time favourite authors. The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street is a collection of eight stories detailing the circumstances that take ordinary people to the brink of madness. These tales entertain and will leave you smiling at the vagaries of the human race. Thank you to NetGalley, Jacob M Appel and Howling Bird Press for providing a copy of the Topless widow of Herkimer Street for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    The title story "The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street", is a bighearted laugh-out-loud story. Funny....with tons of feeling! Another inventive collection.....hooked from start to finish. These stories are lighter than some of his other books. Smart.....delightfully quirky.....and sparkles with wit!!!! Thank you, Augsburg University, Howling Bird press, Netgalley, and 'always', Jacob M. Appel. ---Soulful in unexpected ways ...you make life a little more enjoyable with the books your write us. The title story "The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street", is a bighearted laugh-out-loud story. Funny....with tons of feeling! Another inventive collection.....hooked from start to finish. These stories are lighter than some of his other books. Smart.....delightfully quirky.....and sparkles with wit!!!! Thank you, Augsburg University, Howling Bird press, Netgalley, and 'always', Jacob M. Appel. ---Soulful in unexpected ways ...you make life a little more enjoyable with the books your write us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street by Jacob M Appel I loved every single story in this collection. Jacob M Appel has won too many awards to to name them all here for his writing. He not only is a great writer but he is also a doctor, lawyer and bioethicist. These stories are all timely and cutting edge. This author makes all of his stories so interesting they all, every single one of them interested me. The Current Occupant was about a man named Lewinter who bought a house at a discount from a m The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street by Jacob M Appel I loved every single story in this collection. Jacob M Appel has won too many awards to to name them all here for his writing. He not only is a great writer but he is also a doctor, lawyer and bioethicist. These stories are all timely and cutting edge. This author makes all of his stories so interesting they all, every single one of them interested me. The Current Occupant was about a man named Lewinter who bought a house at a discount from a mail order catalog. The house gets mistakenly delivered to his high school girlfriend's property. The old girlfriend's house gets demolished and she moves into Lewinter's house. Lewinter and his wife Isabelle go to see their new house and find his old girl friend living there. Isabelle his wife wants Lewinter to take swift action. He doesn't have the heart to sue his ex girl friend. The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street we find a mother who thinks it is alright to sunbathe topless in her yard. The neighbors start complaining and her son buys three fences to satisfy the neighbors. The Widow gets served a summons and her son who is a lawyer has to defend his mother in court. The mother thinks what she is doing is perfectly alright, after all don't men go around with no shirt on? Lessons in Platygaeanism is a story about two step brothers that argue over whether the earth is flat or round. Bioethics for Dunces; A girl named Julie Ann lies in a coma because she tried to commit suicide. Her mother is by her side day and night. Julie Ann has zero chances of ever coming out of her coma. Her father procures some morphine to kill Julie Ann and just as he is about to stick her with the syringe, Julie Ann's mother comes into the room and attacks her husband. And it is quite an attack. While this is taking place Julie Ann's machines stop working and she dies on her own. One Wish is about a veterinarian who is walking on the beach with his dog when he comes across a bottle. He uncorks the bottle and a genie appears. The genie will only grant him one wish. He can't make up his mind what to wish for. Toward Uncharted Waters; A childless couple who have always been career oriented get caught in the middle of a robbery. The wife gets so badly injured she turns into a quadriplegic. The two had planned on sailing to distant shores so they are living on their boat. The husband gets tired of taking care of his wife as he gets enmeshed with a younger couple on a nearby boat who are always having parties. The husband soon gets tired of the younger couple when he realizes what they are all about. Rendezvous in Wikiternity: is about a theater group playing The Wizard of Oz. The Scarecrow character keeps finding the young woman who is playing Glenda the good witch with her name linked to a law professor on her Wikipedia page online. The Scarecrow character and Glenda decide to drive out to find out who this law professor is. Glenda finds out that the two of them were in a play in high school and she turned him down for a date. Long Term is about an oncologist who is dying of cancer and he has collected a bunch of iron lungs. I have barely touched on these stories. They contain so much more depth. Again, every single story in the collection was interesting and held my attention. Thank you to Jacob M Appel and Howling Bird Press for these wonderful short stories for an honest review. Highly recommended. Five Stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Another funny, disturbing, crazy compilation of short stories by Mr. Appel. His skill at fashioning a story never ceases to amaze and delight. Wow, he has one incredible imagination. I always enjoy his tales-- they are a great way to end a day. I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Mr. Appel for sharing this with me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Grady

    ‘Quincy’s mother had taken his stepfather’s death reasonably well, or so it seemed’ Once reading one of the Appel novels/books an addiction occurs. That Jacob M Appel is such an extraordinarily fine writer, certainly among the top rung of serious authors in America at present, seems foremost in a resume of his achievements – a collection of his books such as THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK, SCOUTING FOR THE REAPER, MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS, EINTSTEIN’S BEACH HOUSE and PHONING HOME - u ‘Quincy’s mother had taken his stepfather’s death reasonably well, or so it seemed’ Once reading one of the Appel novels/books an addiction occurs. That Jacob M Appel is such an extraordinarily fine writer, certainly among the top rung of serious authors in America at present, seems foremost in a resume of his achievements – a collection of his books such as THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK, SCOUTING FOR THE REAPER, MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS, EINTSTEIN’S BEACH HOUSE and PHONING HOME - until the extent of his life's work to date is surveyed – to date ten books and five collections of stories. It is important for readers new to his works to note the biographical data from the last page of this book. ‘Jacob M Appel is an American author, bioethicist (Bioethics, the study of typically controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine, is also moral discernment as it relates to medical policy, practice, and research. Bioethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy), physician, lawyer and social critic. He couples his fame for his short stories and his plays with his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia. Appel is an advocate for the decriminalization of assisted suicide, raising the possibility that this might be made available to both the terminally ill and those with intractable, long-term mental illness. He has written in favor of abortion rights and fertility treatment for homosexuals, as well as against electronic medical records, which he sees as poorly secured against hacking. He has also argued in favor of the legalization of prostitution, polygamy and incest between consenting adults and bestiality when the animal is not forced or harmed. He has raised concerns regarding the possibility that employers will require their employees to use pharmaceuticals for cognitive enhancement and has urged that death row inmates be eligible to receive kidney transplants. He generated considerable controversy for endorsing the mandatory use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis as part of the in vitro fertilization process to prevent the implantation of embryos carrying severe genetic defects. Appel has also written in support of an "open border" immigration policy. Among the causes that Appel has embraced is opposition to the forcible feeding of hunger strikers, both in domestic prisons and at Guantanamo Bay. He has taught medical ethics at New York University, Columbia University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Brown University's Alpert Medical School.’ Jacob M. Appel stuns. His writing is so informed and tightly sewn that each of the eight short stories in this collection THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET gives the reader the sense of reaching blindly into a bowl of marbles and coming up with a special steely, aggie, tiger or any `keepsie' each time. The stories this time ‘round deal with people of different sorts but each coping or manipulated with moral, ethical and philosophical issues that are poorly defined by the knowledge of each character. We watch them like neighbors peaking over a fence, wondering what the next move might be. But Jacob offers resolutions that touch on our own big questions and in doing so he not only creates great stories but he also challenges us to become involved in the thoughts he has raised. Great…as always.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Honored to have an early look at Appel's latest -- Jacob Appel is at the top of his game in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET, his delightfully quirky, ever smart, and moving new collection. In these eight keenly-observed stories, Appel's endearing if flawed characters find themselves in the throes of tough choices where there are no easy answers. Circumstances may skew absurd -- topless widow? 61 iron lungs? genie in a bottle, anyone? -- but Appel's humanity is real and unwavering, particular Honored to have an early look at Appel's latest -- Jacob Appel is at the top of his game in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET, his delightfully quirky, ever smart, and moving new collection. In these eight keenly-observed stories, Appel's endearing if flawed characters find themselves in the throes of tough choices where there are no easy answers. Circumstances may skew absurd -- topless widow? 61 iron lungs? genie in a bottle, anyone? -- but Appel's humanity is real and unwavering, particularly in matters of the heart. Bursting with irresistible tidbits ranging from medicine to bioethics to property law, Appel's stories seamlessly draw from his deep well of knowledge to deliver a result not only worthy of study, but that will make your belly ache with laughter, and may just earn you an honorary degree.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Oh, what lovely short stories these are! Winner of the 2016 Howling Bird Press Fiction Award, Appel deserves that prize and more. I cannot pick a favorite, but my favorite opening line is: "Early one morning, while walking his dog on a stretch of pristine and windswept beach, the veterinarian stumbled upon a genie in an ordinary bottle." So, who hasn't wanted to do that? Appel prose is deep, without being stiff. He draws the reader into the character quickly, and you identify with his/her emotions Oh, what lovely short stories these are! Winner of the 2016 Howling Bird Press Fiction Award, Appel deserves that prize and more. I cannot pick a favorite, but my favorite opening line is: "Early one morning, while walking his dog on a stretch of pristine and windswept beach, the veterinarian stumbled upon a genie in an ordinary bottle." So, who hasn't wanted to do that? Appel prose is deep, without being stiff. He draws the reader into the character quickly, and you identify with his/her emotions immediately. These stories do not always have happy endings, but they all have endings that show how resolutions happen in life. What a great collection to read in the early spring!

  8. 4 out of 5

    BARBARA

    This book has many characters in different stories and my favorite was: The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street. I can see this story played out any where in the world. Do not ever under estimate women of any age, especially the mature version. She knows her own mind and will do as she pleases. I loved this story and the rest. Makes for a nice afternoon read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    E

    Once I began reading the first story in The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, the short story collection by Jacob M. Appel, I knew I had something special in front of me. There are eight stories and each one is original, beautifully written and meaningful. The opening story, The Current Occupant, is about a man who buys a house online. After the house briefly goes missing he does find it and the surprising occupant. The title story, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is a real gem with an imp Once I began reading the first story in The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, the short story collection by Jacob M. Appel, I knew I had something special in front of me. There are eight stories and each one is original, beautifully written and meaningful. The opening story, The Current Occupant, is about a man who buys a house online. After the house briefly goes missing he does find it and the surprising occupant. The title story, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is a real gem with an important message. Lessons in Platygaeanism is the study of true loyalty. Bioethics for Dunces tells of the worst of all losses. One Wish is about a man who releases a genie from a bottle and is granted one wish. What would you wish for? That is the dilemma he faces. For him, the decision is not so easy. Toward Unchartered Waters opens with a tragedy , moves on to the dangers of infatuation and vanity and the often disastrous results. Rendezvous in Wikiternity is the delightful tale about a creative use of a Wikipedia entry. Long Term is about a most unusual collection. When I finished the last page of the last story, I wished there more stories. The author is a gifted story teller. He has crafted unique and engrossing stories about the often unpredictable paths our lives can take. I highly recommend reading this memorable short story collection. I received a complimentary copy of this book and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    ***I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway*** This book is really closer to 3.5 stars..... I wasn't really sure what to expect. I am always hesitant to read a collection of short stories because I'm fearful I won't have enough time to fall in love with the characters before they are extinguished with a period as the author pushes you to move on to the next story. Appel manages to find the perfect pace on the journey, lingering enough to love them and moving on when a new journey beckons. I en ***I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway*** This book is really closer to 3.5 stars..... I wasn't really sure what to expect. I am always hesitant to read a collection of short stories because I'm fearful I won't have enough time to fall in love with the characters before they are extinguished with a period as the author pushes you to move on to the next story. Appel manages to find the perfect pace on the journey, lingering enough to love them and moving on when a new journey beckons. I enjoyed some of the stories a little more than others, but found myself invested and intrigued in each and every one of them. I really can't pick a favorite! I could, however, find you special quotes or moments from each story. They were each a unique approach to the brink that joins stability and insanity. The human thought process and internal conflict was a character itself In each of these junkets. How easily can thought and reflection spin an ordinary day into an extraordinary event!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    "My breasts will be lost to history—like Joan of Arc's or Helen of Troy's." Jacob M. Appel has really outdone himself with this collection of eight short stories. Every single story was thought-provoking and exciting to read on so many levels, and the intensity of some of the stories left me quite stunned. When I started reading this collection, I told myself I'd just read a few chapters then take a break, but I really could not stop myself from finishing this collection almost immediately after "My breasts will be lost to history—like Joan of Arc's or Helen of Troy's." Jacob M. Appel has really outdone himself with this collection of eight short stories. Every single story was thought-provoking and exciting to read on so many levels, and the intensity of some of the stories left me quite stunned. When I started reading this collection, I told myself I'd just read a few chapters then take a break, but I really could not stop myself from finishing this collection almost immediately after picking it up. Favorite stories: - The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street - Rendezvous in Wikiternity I highly recommend this collection to lovers of a bit of humor mixed with much emotion and a lot of insanity. 4.75 I received a paperback copy in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    GNAB I received a gifted copy of this collection of short stories from Jacob M. Appel. Thank you so much for sharing your work with me! It's always a pleasure to read your short stories.... The characters who flow through these eight stories feel like friends - some could be family. All are compelling. Some are sad, some are funny, all will make you stop and think about quality vs. quantity and rethink your personal legacy. This is a keeper. I will want to read this again. GNAB I received a gifted copy of this collection of short stories from Jacob M. Appel. Thank you so much for sharing your work with me! It's always a pleasure to read your short stories.... The characters who flow through these eight stories feel like friends - some could be family. All are compelling. Some are sad, some are funny, all will make you stop and think about quality vs. quantity and rethink your personal legacy. This is a keeper. I will want to read this again.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bobbie

    This is the first collection of short stories that I've read by Jacob M. Appel, and I really enjoyed it. Of all the stories in the book, however, my favorite was the title story "The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street." This story was refreshingly imaginative, warm, humorous, and touching. It's easy to see why Appel has won an award for his story collection. Check it out for a truly entertaining read. I highly recommend it to the reading community. This is the first collection of short stories that I've read by Jacob M. Appel, and I really enjoyed it. Of all the stories in the book, however, my favorite was the title story "The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street." This story was refreshingly imaginative, warm, humorous, and touching. It's easy to see why Appel has won an award for his story collection. Check it out for a truly entertaining read. I highly recommend it to the reading community.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Glassworks Magazine

    Jacob Appel’s The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street proposes an intriguing question, and with it, a particular view on and of society. While it may play fast and loose with both extremes of logic, insisting on familiar reality at times and abandoning it to implausibility at others, its characters struggle with that compelling question of choice and consequence, often long after they have resigned themselves to passively letting their lives play out. The opening story “The Current Occupant” is one Jacob Appel’s The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street proposes an intriguing question, and with it, a particular view on and of society. While it may play fast and loose with both extremes of logic, insisting on familiar reality at times and abandoning it to implausibility at others, its characters struggle with that compelling question of choice and consequence, often long after they have resigned themselves to passively letting their lives play out. The opening story “The Current Occupant” is one of the strongest. It begins with the ridiculous (though the story considers it simply irresponsible rather than focusing on the absurdity) situation of a mis-delivery of a mail-order house, an accidental demolition, and the supernatural-level of acceptance shown by the displaced owner who just happens to have a romantic history with Lewinter, the original house orderer. Despite its preposterousness, the scenario allows for an authentic interaction to occur between Lewinter and Kitty, a former flame. The two had long ago not just parted ways, but sped down diametrically separate paths, priorities, and philosophies. A simple exchange states the collection’s major theme: Lewinter laments, “What choice do I have?” to which Kitty replies, “We all have choices.” Throughout the stories of the collection, Appel’s driving interest is in these choices and challenging our understanding of “choice.” Not necessarily the details of each individual one, but whether the choices of our life are real or illusory, whether we have any say in our lives’ direction at all. Most of all, the stories challenge whether we can choose to change or if we must stay the course once set. One of the collection’s strengths is how it presents this core dilemma through various ways and outcomes. Different characters respond differently when presented with a fundamental choice -- often the exotic versus the familiar, responsibility versus curiosity -- with some choosing selfishly and others quietly enduring sacrifice and the foregone “what if.” Appel uses the collection itself to compellingly present different outcomes; however, as similar elements, styles, and themes are repeated and reconfigured, subsequent stories don’t feel as fresh. The third story “Lessons in Platygaeanism,” however, stands out. Here, Appel is working outside his immediate comfort zone and that proves a welcome and fruitful risk. The story itself is strong and adds much needed variety in setting, situation, and perspective to the collection. Set in rural Alaska, “Lessons” follows a young boy and his eccentric uncle as they search for the edge of the world. It intrigues in its explorations of ontology and conviction, escalating to a surprising level of passion. This makes it miles distant, both literally and figuratively, from the manicured suburban lawns and reserved, affluent professionals that inhabit most of the collection’s other stories. Often the professions of Appel’s protagonists and their conflicts are directly related in ways that challenge these characters in their areas of comfort and expertise, but this is sometimes taken to such uncanny extents to feel at least convenient and occasionally contrived: the retired meteorologist faces a hurricane, the lawyer’s mother runs afoul of the law, the medical ethics professor’s daughter is put on life-support, the oncologist develops a tumor, the vet’s beloved dog suddenly dies. Their professions are in many respects their identities and Appel effectively challenges them by striking at their cores. On the other hand, this conceit is returned to frequently enough that it becomes noticeable, and in some instances, the characters are primarily defined by their professions in want of other compelling attributes. When considering each story individually, this isn’t an issue, but taken together, similarities appear. The titular story, which is otherwise strong and fascinating in situation and concept, falters in its resolution. After rising to what may be best called a geriatric rebellion against bras and decency, it recedes to the expected trappings of bureaucracy. The protagonist, the widow’s son and a lawyer, makes the sort of climactic, sincere courtroom plea that we’ve come to expect before the last commercial break in broadcast television procedurals. This may very well be the reasonable and realistic outcome, but miring the story in legal proceedings undermines narrative momentum and obscures any commentary or criticism. The prose--like the stories, like the protagonists--is careful, serious, and measured. It’s clear, efficient, and pragmatic, but unvaried. Every sentence is offered in utmost sincerity without ambiguity -- at times at the expense of intrigue. Whether the harmonic Kitty, “topless widow” Ilene, or a neighboring houseboat full of revelers, those considered outside this version of society’s mainstream are often viewed with a fetishistic combination of desire and disdain. Appel’s characters both envy and resent their freedom, while the stories are almost moralistic in their adherence and encouraged adherence to the status quo. Characters resist stepping “out of line” and those who do are routinely punished. There are clear lines drawn between responsible, respectable citizens and “outsiders,” and these divisions inform much of the action. Perhaps this is intended to cast a disparaging light on these circles of society and their rigid expectations but there is little irony across the eight tales and nothing to encourage a satirical reading over a straight one. Whatever the permutation of choice, Appel’s protagonists suffer: suffer in want of choice, suffer against unchoosable desire, suffer for choosing the exotic over the familiar. All of this suffering is presented in fully realized detail and makes for good conflict and drama. If Appel’s The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street intends to show us just how trapped we are in social roles and our own little lives, it does so with dignified resignation, rather than tragedy or outrage.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Amos

      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 t   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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Haselrig

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. Wow. This collection was so far and above what I'd expected when I entered for a chance at winning a copy. Jacob M. Appel's ability to fill a story with life and populate it with characters that feel real is among the best I've ever encountered. That he can then take those characters, quirky yes, but so grounded in everyday life, and thrust them into situations that are so off-kilter they almost border on the absurd and have it work, felt like a magic I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. Wow. This collection was so far and above what I'd expected when I entered for a chance at winning a copy. Jacob M. Appel's ability to fill a story with life and populate it with characters that feel real is among the best I've ever encountered. That he can then take those characters, quirky yes, but so grounded in everyday life, and thrust them into situations that are so off-kilter they almost border on the absurd and have it work, felt like a magic trick and I found myself desperately wanting to know how he pulled it off over-and-over again. He's also adept at setting things up that seem contrived (a weatherman dealing with Weathermen during a hurricane, a medical ethics professor's daughter ends up on life support with no hope of recovery) only to pull a living, breathing story out of an artificial-seeming set-up. It's like a great musician who can take a note that would seem derivative or corny if played by a less talented musician and bend it until it's something new and exhilarating. Hard to pick a favorite here as all of the stories are effective in one way or another. Pointing to the one that hit me hardest is easy, though. Bioethics for Dunces destroyed me. A month or so ago, I read a book titled Modern Death by Haider Warraich that set me up for this story to be particularly effective. This is kindof random, but the single best line (or at least fraction of a line) I've read in a long, long time came towards the end of the last story of the collection, Long Term. "...a choice between isotopes of guilt." Simply brilliant. I think the word "brilliant" sums my feelings about this collection up nicely. Five stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street doesn't lack the basics of a good short story collection. Engaging characters, plots that stretch beyond what is written on the page, and (most importantly) good writing. The book is mostly made up of short stories that are as you think they would be, with one or two that are bit more funny or romantic than the others. My absolute favorite of the collection was Towards Uncharted Waters. Without giving too much away, I feel it was the best representation of App The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street doesn't lack the basics of a good short story collection. Engaging characters, plots that stretch beyond what is written on the page, and (most importantly) good writing. The book is mostly made up of short stories that are as you think they would be, with one or two that are bit more funny or romantic than the others. My absolute favorite of the collection was Towards Uncharted Waters. Without giving too much away, I feel it was the best representation of Appel's work in this book. It elevated all the things I liked in the other tales to their highest forms, and transformed the elements I didn't care for into something I felt was truly necessary to the story. The irony was swift, piercing, and unexpected. A true joy to read. Of course I must look for the overarching theme throughout this collection, and it seems to be men using women to find some essential thing about themselves. Taking a normal or typical situation to something just a hair beyond normal is something Appel does well, and it happens to be one of my favorite writing techniques. Of course, the theme I noted could be a result, or even a thought-out goal of that writing style (think Cheever-esque commentary on the norm). I only wish that there had been more diverse perspectives throughout the collection, or that the book had pushed this theme closer into the realm of the uneasy in order to drive home the point of commentary. I received a free copy of this book for review. 3.5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suki

    5/5 stars I loved this book. Usually, collections of short stories are hit or miss, with a couple of gems and a few that leave me cold. Every story is this book was funny, poignant, and slightly unsettling. The characters were believable and well-drawn, and the plots had a quirky twist that made them different. It's hard to pick a favourite but I'm going with The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, about an woman regaining her self-identity after years of marriage and motherhood, much to her son's 5/5 stars I loved this book. Usually, collections of short stories are hit or miss, with a couple of gems and a few that leave me cold. Every story is this book was funny, poignant, and slightly unsettling. The characters were believable and well-drawn, and the plots had a quirky twist that made them different. It's hard to pick a favourite but I'm going with The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, about an woman regaining her self-identity after years of marriage and motherhood, much to her son's dismay, and Lessons in Platygaeanism, a story of boys growing up in Alaska and the unintended consequences of asking questions. My only criticism, and it's a minor quibble, it is that two of the stories (The Wish and Long Term) have too many similarities. Even though they are very different and deal with difficult issues (I actually liked both stories), I felt that they dealt with similar choices and resolutions which was a bit repetitive in such a short collection. In a larger volume, the similarities would be less obvious. Summary: Highly recommended. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book on LibraryThing, in exchange for a fair review. Cross-posted on GoodReads, LibraryThing and Amazon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Another fantastic collection! Loved all of the stories in this book and have read a couple of them out loud to clients. My personal favorite was the title story, I laughed out loud at some parts and shared this story with others who also thought it was hilarious. I read through the book once and then shared several stories with others. Willing to share this book as long as I get it back LOL as I will read this again in the future for sure. Jacob is an amazing author who makes the characters feel Another fantastic collection! Loved all of the stories in this book and have read a couple of them out loud to clients. My personal favorite was the title story, I laughed out loud at some parts and shared this story with others who also thought it was hilarious. I read through the book once and then shared several stories with others. Willing to share this book as long as I get it back LOL as I will read this again in the future for sure. Jacob is an amazing author who makes the characters feel real and the stories never fail to disappoint in making you think. Sometime they don't have endings you expect or wanted. Sometimes you wonder what really happens as the story ends hanging. But in the end I feel like you should appreciate and enjoy his stories and I look forward to reading more in the future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    Another great collection of short stories by Jacob M. Appel. All of the stories are entertaining but my personal favorite is The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street which also is the title of this collection. What appeared to be a funny situation of a son trying to convince his elderly mother not to sunbathe turned into something with a deeper meaning. That's what I like about this writer. His stories are fun to read but have depth as well. I received a free copy of this book and that is my honest r Another great collection of short stories by Jacob M. Appel. All of the stories are entertaining but my personal favorite is The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street which also is the title of this collection. What appeared to be a funny situation of a son trying to convince his elderly mother not to sunbathe turned into something with a deeper meaning. That's what I like about this writer. His stories are fun to read but have depth as well. I received a free copy of this book and that is my honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Johnette

    An eclectic mix of stories, each delightful in its own right. And each could be the catalyst for a book because they draw you in that much. Quite an enjoyable read, I wish I hadn't come to the end so quickly. Looking forward to reading more of Jacob's work. This book was perfect for the last couple of days when my attention span was on the short side. Easy to pick up and put down without having to figure out where I left off. Two thumbs up! An eclectic mix of stories, each delightful in its own right. And each could be the catalyst for a book because they draw you in that much. Quite an enjoyable read, I wish I hadn't come to the end so quickly. Looking forward to reading more of Jacob's work. This book was perfect for the last couple of days when my attention span was on the short side. Easy to pick up and put down without having to figure out where I left off. Two thumbs up!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Wonderful book several short stories. And I agree with the widow why can't us girls walk without our shirt lol. I highly recommend this book Wonderful book several short stories. And I agree with the widow why can't us girls walk without our shirt lol. I highly recommend this book

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karen Heuler

    Two stories stood out for me in this consistently good collection. The title story, about a man whose mother decides to go topless in her yard, amid the objections of neighbors and the frustrations of the police, has a wonderful premise, exactly the same mix of sadness and exasperation that seems to be Appel's mainstay. What is she proving? Is it worth the mess she creates? And how is a son to cope when his mother is determined to frustrate his plans to prevent her public displays? It's not so m Two stories stood out for me in this consistently good collection. The title story, about a man whose mother decides to go topless in her yard, amid the objections of neighbors and the frustrations of the police, has a wonderful premise, exactly the same mix of sadness and exasperation that seems to be Appel's mainstay. What is she proving? Is it worth the mess she creates? And how is a son to cope when his mother is determined to frustrate his plans to prevent her public displays? It's not so much the nudity (not much of an issue for me) but the fact that she's chosen to make her stand about it, that she's imperturbable, that it matters to her and it confounds him. In "Toward Uncharted Waters," a couple living on a houseboat (she was recently paralyzed during a robbery) are confronted by a neighboring houseboat and their loud, madcap parties. The husband is increasingly drawn to one of the party makers. He's as dazed as Nick was by Gatsby, and it's the Gatsby elements that augment this story for me, as well as the quiet desperation of the paralyzed wife. The boat next door is crazy and alluring and almost leads to catastrophe. The ending haunts me. The stories pit distinct individuals against their own distinctly individual life events. They don't shrivel up. They push against what life has dealt them as if they could change it. And in their own ways, maybe they can.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert Blumenthal

    Another winning collection from a true master of the short story. Jacob has published a rather large collection of short tales, and each one is on a par of mastery as every other. If there were an award for being the most prolific writer of quality short fiction, Jacob would be a definite contender. In this group, there is the general theme of people struggling with love and life in general, with many impediments placed in their way (loss of loved ones, accidents greatly affecting the everyday li Another winning collection from a true master of the short story. Jacob has published a rather large collection of short tales, and each one is on a par of mastery as every other. If there were an award for being the most prolific writer of quality short fiction, Jacob would be a definite contender. In this group, there is the general theme of people struggling with love and life in general, with many impediments placed in their way (loss of loved ones, accidents greatly affecting the everyday living of our lives), including some rather unusual ones (a house bought on the Internet delivered to the wrong address; cyber romancing, or stalking, through Wikileaks; a genie in a bottle). I did find it interesting that a common theme throughout the stories is gardening, specifically the tending to flowers. In addition, Jacob's training in medical bioethics and legal matters is exhibited in several of the stories. The stories have very relateable and interesting characters, and they all seem to struggle with something. The stories aren't edge of your seat thrilling, but they are all quite involving, mostly because you really care what happens to these characters. Also, the situations are somewhat unusual and this helps to pique the reader's interest. And finally, the word play and humor shown is a wonderful extra that keeps one amused and entertained.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    This is a book to savor. I recommend NOT reading it all in one sitting, rather reading one of these delightful stories daily so you can savor them for the rest of the day. Immediately likable, quirky characters inhabit the pages of this book engaging in unusual (but understandable) behaviors and circumstances that range from finding a genie in a bottle to tough end of life decisions. I would put Appel's writing skills right up with the best. He knows how to write colorfully descriptive prose with This is a book to savor. I recommend NOT reading it all in one sitting, rather reading one of these delightful stories daily so you can savor them for the rest of the day. Immediately likable, quirky characters inhabit the pages of this book engaging in unusual (but understandable) behaviors and circumstances that range from finding a genie in a bottle to tough end of life decisions. I would put Appel's writing skills right up with the best. He knows how to write colorfully descriptive prose without getting bogged down in wordiness. Yet, he creates great depth of character in the inhabitants of his stories. As for imagination and invention in plot, I would rank him with Neil Gaiman, among others. Some of the stories leave you smiling; some leave you guessing. All are remarkable. A true winner!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    I received a copy of this book for free directly from the author. Another fantastic collection of short stories from Jacob M. Appel! This is the fifth collection of Appel's I've read and I have enjoyed them all immensely. This collection is a bit more hopeful and lighthearted in tone than the other collections I've read which are generally a melancholic tone. I usually don't single out stories within a collection, but I have to mention that the stories One Wish and Toward Uncharted Waters were bo I received a copy of this book for free directly from the author. Another fantastic collection of short stories from Jacob M. Appel! This is the fifth collection of Appel's I've read and I have enjoyed them all immensely. This collection is a bit more hopeful and lighthearted in tone than the other collections I've read which are generally a melancholic tone. I usually don't single out stories within a collection, but I have to mention that the stories One Wish and Toward Uncharted Waters were both just flat out brilliant pieces. I also need to mention the title story The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street is hilarious! If you enjoy character driven short stories that range from the hopeful to the sad to the (somewhat) absurd, do not miss a chance at reading a bit of the stories from Jacob M. Appel. A truly gifted storyteller.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ann Welton

    Jacob Appel’s latest collection of eight short stories, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is again written with the same superb style of his previous short story novels. “Current Occupant” is a thought-provoking story of a retired couple who invest their savings in an internet, manufactured home for their retirement years, and what follows their purchase. “One Wish” is a bit like an adult fairy tale, but believable, and “Long Term” is about an oncologist who wants his 61 old iron lungs to be Jacob Appel’s latest collection of eight short stories, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is again written with the same superb style of his previous short story novels. “Current Occupant” is a thought-provoking story of a retired couple who invest their savings in an internet, manufactured home for their retirement years, and what follows their purchase. “One Wish” is a bit like an adult fairy tale, but believable, and “Long Term” is about an oncologist who wants his 61 old iron lungs to be used for a restaurant. His stories leave the reader with lots of room to draw his own conclusion. Very entertaining reading, easily done in one sitting.. Thank you to the author and Howling Bird Press for a copy to enjoy and review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    DW

    Pleasantly written short stories about ordinary people in more or less ordinary situations. Each story had a slightly absurd angle to it but not enough to feel like these people couldn't be your neighbors, or even yourself. One story about a courtship taking place through Wikipedia edits was absurd enough to be unrealistic and annoying and I would have preferred to have seen it left out. Overall it felt like spending an afternoon catching up with the latest town gossip. The biggest drawback was Pleasantly written short stories about ordinary people in more or less ordinary situations. Each story had a slightly absurd angle to it but not enough to feel like these people couldn't be your neighbors, or even yourself. One story about a courtship taking place through Wikipedia edits was absurd enough to be unrealistic and annoying and I would have preferred to have seen it left out. Overall it felt like spending an afternoon catching up with the latest town gossip. The biggest drawback was that none of the stories ended, they just stopped. For fans of Maeve Binchy's short stories. I got a free copy from NetGalley.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonni Jones

    I read multiple books at a time; therefore it usually takes me a while to finish a single book. Not this one. It took me only three days (I had to eat and sleep and occasionally work) to finish Jacob Appel’s book. It was that good. I’m a sucker for short stories and these did not disappoint. They were at turns sad, weird, funny and witty. Most of all, they kept me engrossed and I was left wanting more. This was the first time I’d read any of Appel’s stories but I am now definitely a fan! In the in I read multiple books at a time; therefore it usually takes me a while to finish a single book. Not this one. It took me only three days (I had to eat and sleep and occasionally work) to finish Jacob Appel’s book. It was that good. I’m a sucker for short stories and these did not disappoint. They were at turns sad, weird, funny and witty. Most of all, they kept me engrossed and I was left wanting more. This was the first time I’d read any of Appel’s stories but I am now definitely a fan! In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book in return for a fair review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lori Tatar

    Jacob M. Appel delivers another great collection of short stories with The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street. The stories in this set, including the title story, seem to show more self-reflection on the characters' parts. There is also plenty of the author's irony present. From an aging widow contemplating her own mortality to an unselfish bachelor veterinarian, there is always the sense of the surreal, life just beyond the limits of what is expected. This is another treat from author Appel, best Jacob M. Appel delivers another great collection of short stories with The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street. The stories in this set, including the title story, seem to show more self-reflection on the characters' parts. There is also plenty of the author's irony present. From an aging widow contemplating her own mortality to an unselfish bachelor veterinarian, there is always the sense of the surreal, life just beyond the limits of what is expected. This is another treat from author Appel, best savored story by story.

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