Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
By SMW Staff
EMILY AND EINSTEIN (St. Martin’s Press; March 2011; Hardcover; $24.99) is a story of love and loss, of perseverance, and—above all—of second chances
Emily Barlow seemed to be living a perfect life. A rising editorial star at Caldecote Press, she found pleasure in her job and peace at home, living with her handsome, loving (and wealthy) husband Sandy in the famous Dakota apartment building on New York’s idyllic Upper West Side. However, everything changes one night when Sandy is killed in an accident on his way to meet her. Within days, Emily’s life is turned upside down: her mother-in-law is intent on evicting Emily from the apartment, conflicts at work begin to take their toll on her once unshakable resolve, and her estranged sister turns up with plans to write a tell-all memoir about their famous feminist mother. And, still reeling from these events, Emily makes the startling discovery that her happy marriage may not have been as happy as she’d thought.
Emily finds solace in Einstein, a small, homely, and often cranky dog that she rescues from the animal shelter and nurses back to health (he sustained serious injuries in an accident the same night Sandy died). Einstein’s personality seems oddly familiar: he knows secrets about her apartment that no dog really should, and more than anything, he seems strangely determined to help Emily start a new chapter in her life. Will his efforts convince her to reconcile with her past to create a new future? And what’s in it for this mysterious canine? Perhaps Emily and Einstein—in seeking out second chances—have more in common than either could imagine.
EMILY AND EINSTEIN is a powerful book that, through the heartwarming tale of a woman and her dog, examines both the strength of the human spirit and the danger of taking life for granted.
Chapter oneMy mother used to tell me that life could change in an instant, a line drawn in the sand separating before from after, altering you completely. Was that really true? Could a person be changed in an instant? Or did a crack already have to exist in the ice, the beginnings of a change we simply refused to see? —excerpt from My Mother’s Daughter
Everyone has a story but I was never interested in telling my own. I was an editor of books, not a writer. I loved to find sense in someone else’s chaos, uncover the intent of a sentence or paragraph that only hinted at a truth. At least that was how I felt until I met Sandy Portman. The first time I saw him my world tilted. Ridiculous, I know, but seeing him that first time jarred me so deeply that I had to turn away, like turning away from looking directly at the sun, and pretend I hadn’t noticed him at all.
It had nothing to do with the fact that he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. His face was a strike against him. I fell in love because there was something in his eyes that was at odds with his physical beauty. Sandy Portman drew me in, like the draft of a manuscript where perfectly constructed sentences hinted at but didn’t yet reveal a deeper truth. And when he pulled me close and smiled at me the first time, a crooked smile on his perfect face, hinting at a bit more of his truth? Well, I was lost.
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.
Perhaps that was my mistake. Then again, perhaps that’s what would save me.
That morning, the day everything began, I woke with what I now can only call a premonition that my world was about to shift. But I didn’t recognize the feeling for what it was. I ignored it.
It had been snowing all night, snow on top of snow during one of the worst winters New York City had seen in a decade. It was Friday, and when I got to work at Caldecote Press almost no one was there, kept away by the storm, safe in houses reached only through bridges and tunnels, or in apartments on the island of Manhattan that climbed up floor after floor into the mottled gray clouds until the buildings disappeared. At noon, I headed home. The animal clinic had closed due to the weather, and I tried calling Sandy to let him know I would meet him at the apartment. He didn’t answer, and his voice mail was full. I’d left a message with his secretary for him to call me, but I never heard back.
We lived in the Dakota, a hundred- and- twenty- year- old building on the Upper West Side, and when I got home I worked, first on a manuscript that had come in early, then on the guest room I had been redoing for several weeks. I had painted the walls a pale yellow, with white crown molding, and a border of lavender, green, and blue flowers that I was painting myself, each delicate stroke like a line of a psalm as I sat at the top of the ladder, the impossibly high ceilings seeming to reach up to God. For the last two years, I had put every extra cent I had into the apartment. While my husband had a great deal of money, I did not. But I gave that no thought, pouring my heart and soul into the old but enchanted residence that had been little more than a dusty museum when Sandy lived there alone.
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