Author: Linda Francis Lee
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: March 1, 2011
Emily and Einstein was sort of a departure from the books I've been reading lately, mainly because of the element of magical realism which you'll see in an upcoming review is not really me. But as I mentioned, the cover absolutely drew me in, and I loved the dog on the cover who sort of reminds me of my dog, Lily. And the premise sounded interesting enough, so I picked it up. (Awesome job, whoever designed the cover!)
I've found some of the plot synopses online to be lacking and deceptively vague in the main elements of this novel, so don't think I'm spoiling anything! I promise this is literally the basic premise of the novel. Emily and her husband, Sandy, live at the Dakota, a prestigious building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Emily works as an editor for a publishing house and volunteers at an animal shelter after work. Sandy is successful in his work as a businessman. Unbeknownst to Emily, though, Sandy is the ultimate jerk of a husband who happens to be on his way to meet her to ask for a divorce. (Well, demand, really... Sandy's not the nicest guy). On his way there, Sandy dies in an accident. This is where the magical realism comes in, as Sandy is given a "second chance" to make things right with Emily by re-entering life as a dog. As it happens, a cute, loveable dog (see the cover).
What Sandy, now known as Einstein, is supposed to do to compensate for who he was as a human isn't really ever specified. But Emily and Einstein of course end up together. Einstein witnesses Emily's downward spiral as she grieves her husband while also having to put up with her elitist mother-in-law taking back the family apartment, evicting Emily in the process. As time moves on, Emily also starts learning that Sandy never was this great guy he made her believe he was. As if it's not hard enough to grieve the loss of her husband, Emily now has to deal with the loss of who she thought she knew and the accompanying betrayal.
Emily and Einstein turned out to be a cute and surprisingly thoughtful book that, despite some minor gripes, I really enjoyed. Let me tell you my gripes first..
I found some of the characters either inconsistent or unrealistic. In the beginning, Emily is this smart, almost powerhouse of a woman, who puts even the haughty Alexander Sandy Regal Portman at unease with her surety. Yet, she falls for a no-good guy and never sees through him which I felt like her character should have, at least eventually. Realistically, I suppose this type of thing does happen in real life all the time, but I just felt like the way her character was portrayed in the beginning she would have known better. And I don't feel like her insight as it relates to him improved at all even by the end. Another gripe, I could not STAND Sandy. I think by the end the reader is supposed to like him a little more or at least understand him, but I didn't see any genuine change happen with him. I think whatever change there was happened too last minute for me to believe it. It was so strange that I liked the thought of Einstein the dog, but hated Sandy's character which really was Einstein. One other gripe, there is a romantic interest in the story that I thought happened real suddenly. There lacked, for me, a natural progression. It was just all of a sudden they were acting like they fell in love and it didn't make sense to me.
But I did say I enjoyed this book. Overall the story was fun. The chapters alternate in narration from Emily to Einstein/Sandy and it is separated by font changes (this visual change really did help with the switch of characters in my mind). I liked reading about Emily's job in a publishing house and I bet most readers will enjoy that aspect and seeing her going through the process of buying a book, trying to market it, etc. And while this book wasn't replete with quotable moments, I did find a few relatable ones like the one below.
I don't remember exactly when books became my refuge, but it was in the pages of a world created out of thin air that I began to find pieces I recognized as myself. In books I found characters so real that they were more my friends than the children with whom I went to school. In the stories I loved, I found adults wiser than the ones who laughed and argued in my mother's living room. (pg. 132)One of the topics that this book brought up was how we make people out to be who we think they are rather than seeing them for who they really are. It also made the point about how we define ourselves. Do we do so by our specific accomplishments or how we treat others? How happy we are with ourselves? There was a side storyline involving Emily's sister and mother that helped contribute to this topic, as did the storyline with Sandy's mother -- I really liked the outcome of that one.
So in all, Emily and Einstein was fun and thoughtful. Some of what I felt were discrepancies in the character development took from the reading, but the storyline overall and the thinking points made this book a good read.
The author, Linda Francis Lee, will be chatting with readers at a live event/book party on Booktrib.com on March 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm.