Emily and Einstein, by Linda Francis Lee.
The real question isn't, why aren't you strong enough? It's, why do you keep doubting that you already are? - from Emily and Einstein, page 322 -
My name is Emily Barlow, and I had never been good at sensing trouble. I didn't need to be. I made lists, mapped out plans, then moved forward with a calm certainty that everything would work out. Unshakable faith. Bone-deep belief. Call it what you will. I stepped into any situation with the calm conviction that no matter what, I would survive. - from Emily and Einstein, page 11 -
Emily Barlow has always had high expectations of herself, something she has borrowed from her feminist mother whose belief in the strength of women was notorious. Emily's job as a senior editor leaves little room for mistakes. She forges into life with a positive energy, and ignores the cracks in her marriage to Sandy Portman, a handsome and successful business man whose stunning good looks do not go unnoticed by other women. So when Sandy dies unexpectedly in a tragic accident, Emily is surprised to find herself floundering. Even worse, she discovers that Sandy is not all she thought him to be. The last thing she needs in her life is a scruffy dog, but she cannot resist saving Einstein from being euthanized at the dog shelter. Little does Emily know, but Einstein is also not all she thinks him to be -- he is much, much more.
Emily and Einstein is a joyous novel of second chances, redemption, and inner strength. Who among us has not longed for a chance to right a wrong? Or have one last moment with someone before they are lost to us? Or to be given the opportunity to live our dreams? In Linda Francis Lee's latest novel, the characters are given the chance to do all of these things. In alternating points of view between Emily and Einstein, Lee takes the reader on a journey which is part fantasy, part reality. It is a look at how we reconcile our pasts and come to terms with death, and an exploration of faith and the enduring power of love.
I was pulled into this novel effortlessly. I loved Emily, a woman whose perfect exterior belies her self-doubt and who must not only mend her relationship with her sister, Jordan, but come to terms with the faithlessness of her husband. But it is Einstein who surprised me the most -- a dog who is perhaps more than a dog, a dog who must also make an inner journey to find redemption at the end. Scrappy, irascible, and often charming, Einstein is a dog which readers will not soon forget.
Lee's writing is engaging, funny, and ultimately uplifting. If a criticism can be made, it is perhaps in how flawlessly all the pieces come together and how no one seems to question Einstein's abilities which are far beyond what any dog should be able to accomplish. Readers will have to suspend reality to fully engage in this novel -- but, those who are able to do that, will be rewarded. For me, believing in Einstein came easily.
In case you have not already figured it out, I thoroughly enjoyed Emily and Einstein. Rarely do authors manage to weave together a story of hope and joy which doesn't sound sappy -- but Lee manages to do just that. This novel is a treat from the first sentence to the last.
Four and a half stars out of five.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".