Emily and Einstein
By Linda Frances Lee
St. Martin’s Press
Emily Barlow is an editor at a small, New York publisher and she loves her job. She’s dedicated to her authors, her publishing house, and her husband. Her husband, Sandy Portman, is, however, not so dedicated to their life together. After two years of marriage, Sandy wants a divorce. On the night he plans to drop his ultimatum, he dies in a car accident caused by a small dog outside of the animal hospital where Emily volunteers. Refusing to believe he could be dead — nothing happens to Sandy Portman he doesn’t want to happen — he strikes a deal with the old man who comes to take him away into the nothingness. He can go back but he must help Emily. Sandy, wanting nothing more than to go back and believing he will eventually return to his own body, takes the deal and finds himself in the body of a scraggly, ugly dog named Einstein.
Insulating herself in a bubble of grief and disbelief, Emily makes it through the funeral in a fog waiting for Sandy to walk through the door and for the nightmare that has become her life to end. She stops by the animal hospital to check on the dog Einstein she spent her last bit of savings to rescue, and in a fit of grief, she takes the dog home and attempts to make a life without Sandy. Unfortunately, nothing is simple for Emily. Her job security crumbles in front of her eyes, her former mother-in-law wants to evict her from the apartment she shared with Sandy, and her sister, who has a tentative grip on reality, shows up on her doorstep needing a place to stay and money. For a few weeks, the only thing that tethers Emily to life is the dog Einstein and even he seems not to care too much for her at first. Months pass before Emily can find her footing again, and in the process of understanding who she is and what a sham her marriage was, she begins to understand a mother and a sister she always thought too distant and different, finds out she can still love, and family is not always so worrisome.
While Emily is a likable, if grief stricken character, Sandy is not. He’s loathsome as a person — cheating on his wife, running away from any bit of difficulty in life, and throwing money at everything — and when he becomes Einstein (don’t worry this happens very early in the book, no spoilers) you revel in the fact he’s now an ugly dog. He’s still arrogant, believes himself the one scorned, and even though he was not a great husband to Emily, the divorce he wanted was really her fault in the end. Sandy reneged on promises he made to her, like deeding Emily the apartment so his mother couldn’t evict her, and was the type of person you feel sorry for and disgusted by at the same time. He was so wrapped up in who he was he never even took a moment to look at the woman he married. As Einstein, he comes to appreciate Emily; more than he ever did as a man.
I will admit up front this book is out of my normal genre range but I will also admit to enjoying it quite a lot. One thing you need to keep in mind is that this is a book about second chances and pretty much everyone gets that second chance here but if you’re willing to look past a small bit of predictability, Emily and Einstein is a fun read. There are several stories that intermingle and while I would have liked to have learned more about certain characters and their pasts, you don’t really get that but you get enough to know who the people are and appreciate the role they play in Emily’s life. She grows in the course of grieving for her husband and while it doesn’t seem much at first, the new life she creates for herself surprises even her. It’s a feel good story and there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, I’m a sucker for any story that has a lovable, if ugly, dog in it. Einstein plays the part well. If you’re looking for a fun Saturday afternoon read, Emily and Einstein is that book.