The Review Board

Where Honesty Never Ends.

Truth Unleashed on Phoning Home


Phoning Home by Jacob M. Appel

Goodreads / Amazon

Genre: Essays/Memoir

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Abbreviated Goodreads Blurb:

Phoning Home is a collection of entertaining and thought-provoking essays featuring the author’s quirky family, his Jewish heritage, and his New York City upbringing. Jacob M. Appel’s recollections and insights, informed and filtered by his advanced degrees in medicine, law, and ethics, not only inspire nostalgic feelings but also offer insight into contemporary medical and ethical issues.
At times sardonic and at others self-deprecating, Appel lays bare the most private aspects of his emotional life. “We’d just visited my grandaunt in Miami Beach, the last time we would ever see her. I had my two travel companions, Fat and Thin, securely buckled into the backseat of my mother’s foul-tempered Dodge Dart,” writes Appel of his family vacation with his two favorite rubber cat toys. Shortly thereafter Fat and Thin were lost forever—beginning, when Appel was just six years old, what he calls his “private apocalypse.”


Today TRB examines “Phoning Home” by Jacob M. Appel. First, let us see what Mini Truth has to say about this work.

Mini Truth

Truthful Takes

Personally, I find that “Phoning Home” is a book that is hard to formulate thoughts on. Why? Because it is a collection of anecdotes/essays/thoughts from the author’s perspective which one either loves, hates, has no opinion on or simply does not understand.

I suppose that with a book such as this there are a few potential ways one can look at it.

  1. From the angle of an analytical mind.
  2. From the point of view of a skeptic whom believes in conspiracy.
  3. From the viewpoint of an objective mind.

Honestly, I had to put myself in all of those various mindsets in order to fully process the depth of this work and provide an overall examination of it.

Phoning Home” is comprised of 13 essays which I can only assume were built to make one think. Some were more lighthearted than others.

Among the ones I somewhat enjoyed were:

  • Phoning Home, the story for which the book gained its namesake.
  • Two Cats, Fat and Thin
  • An Absence of Jello-O
  • Opting Out

There weren’t any “least favorites” for me, per say.

Now to put my thoughts on this book in some coherent form.

An analytical mind

The person with the ability to fully scrutinize these prose, would probably look at them and conjecture an innumerable amount of hypothesis in its regard. Some might say that it is an incredibly deep book, with the potential to open one’s mind to a wide array of possibilities and viewpoints.

This same person might believe that this is a book worth keeping in order to refer to it time and time again, so as to further validate their assumptions.

The Skeptic

This book could easily be misconstrued as an subliminally influential book that is meant to ween the reader into the author’s way of thinking.

Some might argue that the author is a detached individual with a crooked sense of right and wrong, and would take essays like the aforementioned “Opting Out” as a means to justify that claim.

The Objective Mind

A person with a more impartial train of thought, can look at this book and think “Is it something that I would spend my money on, and is it entertaining, well-written and well-rounded enough to read?” This same person would regard the essays as nothing more than entertainment, and leave it at that.


The fact of the matter is that no two people will think the same thing about “Phoning Home”.

Now, with all of that out of the way, I’ll elaborate a little further on some other thoughts I had as it pertains to this book.

  • As nicely as the author writes, I was unimpressed. Here is why: For all of the fancy verbiage that this author demonstrates, that still does not take away from the fact that the delivery therein will bore the pants off of anyone. It’s just very mundane.
  • Again, while the writing was good, there were far too many “bad habits” that the author exhibited. Things like, sentences often starting with conjunctions. Run on sentences; some of which went on for 7-9 lines. That’s just ridiculous.
  • There was one segment in particular that stood out like a sore thumb. It was in the story mentioned previously called “Two Cats, Fat and Thin”. In that story the author relates how a “poor black maid” would more than likely “steal his toy cats”, or so his parents thought. While I understand what he was going for, not everyone will. Some might misunderstand this as racism/bigotry.
  • I found myself jumping back and forth between pacing myself, then gobbling up big chunks at a time. Why? Because it’s EXHAUSTING TO READ! So, sometimes I felt as though I needed to read as much as I could in one shot. The other times I could only get through a page or two. Suffice it to say, that this is not a book that you can read in one sitting.
  • The author tended to go off on tangents of apparently relative information, but actually did nothing for the story. It felt as though in those instances, the primary focus of the story was set by the waste-side just to make room for these unnecessary deflections. They too were exhausting.

With all of that being said, I give “Phoning Home6 TRB stars. All in all, this is simply not a book that I (the objective individual) would spend my money on. Other individuals, however? They just might.


Thank you Mini Truth for your feedback on this work. Now, let’s see what No Labels has to say.

No Labels

Unleashed Speaks

My tastes in reading has always been diverse. In my eyes, as long as something can be conveyed in an understandable yet entertaining way, then it gets my attention regardless of genre. I treat a collection of essays similar to how I treat short stories: I try to see the beauty in all, then give my perspective as a whole.

However, each of these essays possessed a trending rhythm so through this review, the reader will be able to dictate whether this rhythm was smooth sailing or rocky terrain.

Ongoing Rhythm

1. There was dry humor sprinkled throughout, although a few areas tittered dangerously on appearing offensive to some groups of people. Although I could pinpoint via context that wasn’t what the author was going for, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention it.

2. The sentence structure in all of the essays made me feel as if I was running a marathon. One sentence could easily be seven lines long. The major drawback in such an elongated presentation is that by the time you reach the period, there were moments when I had to re-read the sentence to gather the full meaning. Sometimes, it is more beneficial to divide sentences rather than to go for trend or style.


3. I understand that the author wanted to provide back story into some of his observations and behaviors. Some detours were right on time but most of the others were misplaced and took too long to return to the moral or point of the essay. These tangents possessed the capacity to milk the humor out of potentially good writings.

4. A couple of times, some essays were bogged down with so much “extra” if you will that I had to set them aside and then return  to them. In other words, Phoning Home was not the type that I could really knock out in one or even two settings … it involved diligence, concentration and pacing, words I wouldn’t normally use to describe my adventures in reading.

Based on these findings, I am ready to render my verdict.

Overall, I give Phoning Home 5.5 TRB Stars, which will translate to a soft 3 for those places that utilize the 5 Star Scale. With less digressions and quicker returns to the main points, Phoning Home could have easily garnered a higher score.


Now let’s take the two scores and divide them accordingly.


Overall Phoning Home receives 5.75 TRB stars, which round up to 6 Stars.

Thank you for checking out The Review Board. Feel free to subscribe, share and like. Have a terrific day!


About Y. Correa

I write books, I makes magazines, I cook food, I blog... a lot. And I also happen to take a lot of food pictures. Basically, I'm just me.

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2015 by in July, reviews and tagged , .

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