Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee is dubbed “A Novel of Second Chances.” The novel tells the story of Emily, a hard-working literary editor and devoted wife, whose world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a tragic accident.
In addition to her work as an editor, Emily volunteers at an animal shelter, where she meets Einstein, a scruffy dog who was brought in the same night that Emily’s husband was killed. Einstein is in danger of being put down since he isn’t being adopted out, so Emily decides to take him home herself.
With Einstein and her sister Jordan by her side, Emily does her best to work through her grief while uncovering surprising revelations about her husband.
The review portion of this post will contain some spoilers of more detail of Emily and Einstein‘s plot set-up. I’ve opted to include the vague synopsis above because I went into the novel knowing very little about it and, I believe, enjoyed it more as a result. No major spoilers below, though — just what you’d find in a typical plot synopsis!
I rated this book four out of five stars on Goodreads. It took me a couple of days to finish, but I would have gotten through it a heck of a lot faster had I not read it during finals week, because I had a lot of trouble putting it down!
As we learn within the first few chapters of the novel, Einstein is no ordinary dog: he’s inhabited by the soul of Sandy, Emily’s recently-deceased and incredibly self-obsessed husband. Lee utilizes alternating perspectives in her narrative, frequently shifting the focus from Sandy’s thoughts to Emily’s so the reader gets to experience the story from multiple angles. Lee’s use of this technique is much more successful than it has been in other novels (such as Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, in which I thought the two voices were too similar for the technqiue to work).
As a film, it would be difficult to translate. Obviously, since Sandy goes from human to dog, he loses his ability to speak to the audience through any channel other than narration. Cutting his voice from the story completely would leave the audience scratching their heads, and turn the film into a simpler story of a woman picking up the pieces after her husband’s death. On the other side of the coin, constant narration by a dog could easily send a film adaptation into cheeseball territory. It might work out okay if used very carefully (not too often) and if a very good voice actor was chosen (not too showy/exaggerated).
On paper, Sandy is a completely frustrating and unlikable character to read almost to the very end of the story, but crafting him this way was a great choice on Lee’s part. It emphasizes the novel’s messages of forgiveness and seeing the good in people even when they’ve wronged you — a message which is portrayed through the far-more-likable character of Emily. Another reason to preserve his voice if adapting the book to film.
Complex relationships are built between Emily and all of the novel’s other characters, including Einstein/Sandy, her rebellious sister Jordan, her mother (who has passed away but has a great presence in the novel) and Sandy’s family. Again, this is something that would be difficult to translate into film due to the time constraints of the medium. “So many characters, so little time” would certainly be an issue!
The one area in which I would have liked to see more development in the novel, which could be remedied by a film adaptation, was the character of Max and his relationship with Emily. Though Max is certainly likable, a perfectly swoon-worthy “book boyfriend” for the reader, he’s also the only character in the novel that seems like a two-dimensional stock character. His romance with Emily is predictable and a bit shallow, which is this unique story’s only downfall.
The jury’s out on whether Emily and Einstein would make good source material film. I would love to see it happen for the sole fact that no amount of love from me has been able to save the practically-dead romantic comedy genre. (We’re stuck with schmaltzy, death-riddled Nicholas Sparks affairs, and as much as I love watching those terrible films every February, I miss the golden days of the rom-com!) However, it would be a difficult book to adapt successfully. Regardless, the book itself is one that I would definitely recommend for fans of contemporary “chick lit.”