Emily & Einstein: A Novel of Second Chances

Emily & Einstein: A Novel of Second Chances

by Linda Francis Lee


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He was a man who didn't deserve a second chance. But he needed one…

Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side New York apartment in the famous Dakota building. But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident. The funeral isn't even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment. But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies.

Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn't really gone. Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein. But is Einstein's seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past? Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man?

Linda Francis Lee's Emily & Einstein is a heartwarming novel of love and second chances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250217585
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 12/31/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 527,280
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

LINDA FRANCIS LEE is a native Texan now living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, steps from the Dakota Apartment Building. Linda's writing career began in college when she published her first article. But after graduating she was sidetracked from writing when she was offered a job teaching probability and statistics. Later she found her way back to her first love, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution called her breakout novel, Blue Waltz, "absolutely stunning." Now the author of more than twenty books that are published in sixteen countries around the world, when Linda isn't writing she loves to run in Central Park and spend time with her husband, family, and friends.

Read an Excerpt


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.

I had ripped down ancient wallpaper, torn up broken bathroom tile, replaced outdated appliances, entwining myself in a place that represented everything I had been working toward my entire life. A home with a husband and children, Sunday dinners and friends. A life of work and family, the lines filled in with love, colored by years steadily passing. A life so different from the one I led with my mother where we moved from one apartment to the next, uptown, downtown, Alphabet City. We even did a stint in Chinatown, where plucked chickens and ducks hung in steamy shop windows like ornaments on a tree.

Over the years I learned to guard my heart, didn't let myself become attached to people or places despite my dream of having both. But the day I met Sandy in the Caldecote conference room, something inside me opened up. As everyone was leaving the meeting, Sandy stopped me. He didn't notice, or perhaps didn't care about, the glances others gave us. He looked only at me, his lips hiking up at one corner, turning what would have been a wicked smile into something boyish and playful. "Come away with me," he said. "Right now, before everyone gets wise to us and reminds me of schedules and broken legs and all the things you make me forget."

I must have given him a strange look because his smile widened and he added, "At least let me take you someplace for a drink. Then you can tell me all about why you downplay your amazing looks, and I'll tell you all the reasons why I'm falling for you."

He startled me, but I didn't show it. "Do lines like that really work in your world?"

He laughed out loud. "They do." Then that smile again, this time bordering on sheepish, his hazel green eyes flashing. "Hard to believe, huh?"

My guess was that it wasn't the lines that worked, but his looks, his easy charm. This was a man used to getting his way without having to bargain or even ask.

I smiled despite myself. "One, I have nothing to tell, and two, you don't know half the reasons why I'm worth falling for."

This time he was surprised, but he recovered quickly. "Then I'll take notes; you can dictate. It will give me an excuse to keep you out all afternoon and turn a drink into dinner."

I just shook my head and stepped around him. But at the door I turned back. "Dinner. After work. My choice of restaurant."

He cocked his head. "Ever the negotiator. But fine, I'll meet you in the lobby at seven."

"Make it seven-thirty." I started to leave.


I hesitated.

"Do you always win?"

My smile softened. "Does anyone?"

He studied me for a second, then told me I should have been named Diana after the Huntress or Helen after the woman from Troy. "Emily is too soft, too much like that boring cream dress you're wearing. Neither does you justice."

I raised a brow. "For someone who doesn't know the first thing about me, you have a lot of opinions."

What I didn't say was that in every woman there is an Emily just as in every woman there's a Helen of Troy. It depends on which part is nurtured. I'd had no choice but to be strong. And didn't the hardness of strength come when the softness underneath was a threat?

I would have written him off as yet another good-looking guy who used his charm to get what he wanted. But then his brow furrowed. "On second thought, I bet there's an Emily in there somewhere. You just keep her hidden."

My breathing grew shallow. Somehow this seemingly all-surface guy understood.

He walked past me through the doorway, stopping just long enough to tuck a single errant strand of hair behind my ear. "See you at seven-thirty," he said.

I had just finished putting the final touches on the painted border when my BlackBerry rang.

I clattered down the ladder, paintbrush still in hand, lavender paint splattered on the old shirt I wore to protect my clothes. When I glanced at the clock I was surprised to see how late it was. I'd have to hurry to get cleaned up before Sandy got home.

"Hello," I said on the fourth ring.

But it wasn't Sandy. It was Birdie Baleau, a woman who had recently moved to New York from Texas, and was like no New Yorker I had ever met. We had become fast friends almost instantly.

"Congratulations!" Birdie squealed on the phone, like we were still in middle school. "I just heard about your promotion to senior editor!"

I fell into a chair and kicked my feet up on the desk as we talked and laughed, excited over this new phase in my career. When I got off the phone, I tried my husband again, but his voice mail was still full.

I showered, then poured myself a glass of wine, found my iPod and cranked up a crazy mix as I danced through the apartment. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys. Harry Nilsson's "The Puppy Song." Adam Lambert's "No Boundaries."

Then "Broken" by Lifehouse.

I didn't remember downloading the song to my playlist. But I closed my eyes and sang to the century-old walls, twirling, arms wide open, head thrown back. My life felt full, my career soaring, a simple happiness wrapping around me as if there could be no stopping me.

An hour later, Sandy still hadn't shown up. I told myself there was no reason to worry. He had been late before. But another hour passed, then two, and still Sandy hadn't called.

At some level had I known? Had I remembered the premonition, had I thought of the song, but refused to assign meaning to it?

Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I danced and sang in my bright yellow room while snow came down outside the window like thick white curtains that blocked out the view.


I might have called out to my wife, but it wasn't Emily who showed up next to me. All of a sudden I felt a touch of heat, the snow around me melting, one single feather drifting down from the sky. I watched it seesaw back and forth, and I had the distinct thought that I had a choice. Catch the feather — or not.

I hesitated, my mind cloudy with only half-realized thoughts, then just before the feather hit the ground I gasped and scooped it up. As soon as it hit my hand, the heat turned into a sizzle of what I can only call energy, then an old man appeared out of nowhere.

I stumbled back and he smiled at me, his longish white hair swept away from his forehead in a soft wave. He wore a double-breasted frock coat as if he had stepped out of Regency England, a loud, wide tie, and round tortoiseshell glasses. Everything about him seemed mismatched, as if his clothes and bearing had been collected over centuries.

He stepped closer. "I believe that's mine," he said, and plucked the feather from my fingers with the sort of kind, apologetic smile that wasn't a staple in Manhattan. After shoving it in his pocket, he looked me up and down. "Are you all right?"

I scoffed. "Apparently not." I was glad to see my dry wit was still intact even if my body was not.

He only chuckled. "It's always a shock at first, especially when it's an accident. It's easier when the person has been sick for a long time, when the pain is unbearable, and they're ready to move on. It's not even all that hard with the young ones. They are more accepting, not yet so set in their ways. The hardest are the middle-aged. They realize time has run out on achieving their dreams. They don't want to go. They want more time to live the life they have been too afraid or too weighed down by day-to-day existence to achieve. They're the ones who fight every step of the way."

"What are you talking about?"

Part of me knew exactly what he meant, but another part didn't want to know. One of my more useful traits had always been my ability to live and work happily with a narrow-eyed vision that allowed me to assume that I was right and everyone else was wrong. In this case, I had no interest in absorbing that I was dead and he was some sort of angel sent to cart me off to heaven just as in some overly trite movie I never would have bothered to see while alive.

"It's time to move on, Alexander."

No one, not even my mother, called me Alexander.

He started down Seventy-sixth toward Columbus Avenue, brownstones and low-rise apartment buildings forming a narrow snowy canyon. He walked in the street, no footprints left behind in the slush and snow. "Are you coming?"

I realized I had no idea what else to do. Just stand there? It seemed to me that arriving at heaven's gate should be easier than this. But I followed.

We walked the length of Seventy-sixth, crossing Columbus, eventually coming to Central Park. We entered the park on a footpath, taking the winding trail deeper into the snow-covered grounds, and turned south.

Hmmm. "Where are we going?"

"You'll see."

I panicked, the accident and my death finally sinking in.

"I can't do this."

I turned around and fled.

I hadn't run in years, but I started out at a good pace despite my handmade leather shoes, despite the fine wool suit, suspenders, and overcoat. Nothing obstructed me, not the layers of clothes, not my leg, as I ran toward the clinic.

Throughout my life, when my back was against the wall, I had always been able to find a way to save myself. I would save myself again. Surely my injuries weren't as catastrophic as the medics believed. It was probably a tough night; they hadn't put their all into saving me. It couldn't have been too long since the accident. Plus it was freezing cold, keeping my body temperature low. If I could get back into my body, I felt certain I could save myself once again.

I hit Seventy-sixth Street in minutes, arrived at the clinic seconds later. I had never moved so fast in all my life. It was amazing. I could do this. But when I got to the building, the odd old man was already there shaking his head. "You really can't outrun me, Alexander."

The sheer staggering force of it brought me to my knees, literally, my topcoat pooling around me in the frozen slush. "You can't do this. I have so much left to do."

"Technically, that isn't true." Yet again he looked apologetic.

My mind raced. "I have a wife. If I die it will kill her."

"I can't disagree with you there. That woman loves you. Really loves you. Too bad you didn't think of that sooner."

The evening I arrived in the lobby of Caldecote Press to pick up Emily that very first time, I expected her to choose some quaint restaurant on the Upper East Side. Someplace where her classically simple clothes wouldn't stand out. We did end up on the east side, but not at any place that could be considered quaint. She took me to an out-of-the-way coffee shop where the crusty old waiter knew her by name.

As soon as we were seated, the waiter handed us plastic-covered menus.

"I give you a second," the man said, his accent thick and nondescript.

To be perfectly honest, I had never been in a diner before, and the sheer number of choices was staggering, making me suspect the chef couldn't have time or fresh enough ingredients to make a single dish exceptional. Surely, though, he did one item better than the others.

When the waiter returned, I asked, "What is the chef's specialty?"

The man looked put out, scoffed as only a New York waiter could, then used his short, blunt-nosed pencil to point out a section of the menu. CHEF'S SPECIALS, it read.

"Can'ta you read?" the man demanded, then looked at Emily, his expression softening like a grandfather gazing at a beloved granddaughter. "He no good enough for you, latria mou."

Emily ducked her head to hide her smile, her long hair swinging forward.

After I learned that he had said something about adoring her in Greek, I was half afraid to eat the roast beef dinner he banged down in front of me.

"So, you were going to dictate a list of all the reasons you're amazing," I said.

"No, I just said you didn't know all the reasons."

"True. So I made my own list to prove you wrong." I surprised her when I reached into my suit pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. With ceremony, I read, "Emily Barlow is beautiful, smart, straightforward, not worried about what others think of her. And funny, despite the fact that she doesn't realize it."

"You actually made a list?" She gasped.

I turned the sheet toward her.

She laughed out loud when she saw that it was blank.

"Now, your turn to tell me about you," I said.

"Fair enough." But she didn't tell me anything about herself, at least not directly. She was editing a manuscript about great men. Philosophers, scientists, athletes. Her New York–bred reserve evaporating completely, she leaned forward with the kind of enthusiasm the women I dated refused to show, and told me about the book.

"What I'd give for ten minutes with one of those guys," she said.

Ah, a woman who was drawn to powerful men. I shouldn't have been disappointed. I was strong, I had power. But for some reason I had thought she was different.

She laughed, those blue eyes of hers dancing. "Though my sympathies to any woman who falls for a guy like that. Just show me a glimpse of his brain, how it works, that's what I want to see. Explain to me why one man is great and another isn't. Is one man so hungry to be something more than ordinary that he does whatever it takes, and another won't?"

Her question made a shiver run down my spine. "You want to know if you're born with talent or whether you develop it."

"Yes! If you hit a golf ball a hundred times and each time you shank, does that mean you're not meant to play golf? Or is there a magic number for each person, like if you hit a hundred-and-one golf balls, or a hundred-and-ten golf balls, or even two-hundred-and-ten golf balls, it's at that point that you'd start getting better? But you'll never know because you gave up."


Excerpted from "Emily and Einstein"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Linda Francis Lee.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. Emily and Jordan are opposites; Jordan was their mother's favorite, and Emily always knew this. Does your personality in some way balance or counter balance your sibling's personality? Your parent's? While being the less favorite child can be difficult, are there any advantages? Disadvantages to being the favorite?

2. Sandy Portman was a dog of a man while he was living, and he had to become a dog in order to learn how to be a true man. Do you agree with Sandy's ultimate fate at the end of the book? Do you think Einstein/Sandy changes gradually over the course of book, or just in the end? How so?

3. Emily says: "[Althea], like my mother, gave up pieces of herself in an attempt to fit into a world that didn't accept her as she was. . . ." Both Sandy's and Emily's mothers came of age during the birth of modern feminism, and each tried to lead a life that was true to who she wanted to be—ultimately paying a price for her choices. Do you feel women in this day and age can really have it all, dreams, work, and family? Do you think you see or saw your parents clearly, for who they are rather than who you want them to be?

4. Max is younger than Emily by a few years, but in many ways feels older. What made him wiser than his years? Compare Max and Sandy—how were they different? Similar? What did Emily see and need in both of them?

5. In many ways, it seems that Emily is more devastated about Sandy's cheating than by his death. Why is this? Do you think it's true to how people feel? How did Einstein help Emily recover from both—Sandy's death and his cheating—indifferent ways?

6. When Emily was a child, she almost drowned in the ocean, but was washed up on the beach at the last moment; she wondered then if God had looked inside her and considered her "worth saving." The idea of saving others or being saved is an important part of Emily and Sandy/Einstein's stories; Sandy feels that Emily saved him when he first met her and then she saves him again from being killed as a dog. Discuss what saving or rescuing means for these characters. How does it play into and define each of their lives? Do you feel that you've ever been rescued? Or rescued someone?

7. Emily thought she knew her husband, Sandy, but didn't fully. Do you feel it's possible to truly know a spouse or significant other? Do you think you know yours? Does he or she ever surprise you? Tell you a story about their past that you didn't realize had occurred?

8. Second chances are an important theme in Emily and Einstein; each character goes through a transformation of some sort, and feels the need for a new start. Describe these moments for each of them. If you were given a chance to look back on your life and do something over, would you? What might you notice about yourself and your choices that you wouldn't otherwise?

9. Emily runs the New York City marathon in order to find herself after the shock of losing her husband—and to honor Sandy. How is this decision representative of her story as a whole? Do you think it's possible to truly shake the past free or come to terms with it in order to move forward? Have you ever done something drastic, like run a marathon, with the same goal in mind?

10. Consider Einstein's line toward the end: "I had wanted to punish her for going for what she wanted regardless of the cost to herself." He says that he was jealous of her faith in something beyond what he could see. What do you think this means? How does it fit into the larger themes of the book? Do you think this difference of perception might be the reason Sandy and Emily were together, or the reason their relationship failed—or both?

11. Do you think that Emily makes the right career decision at the end of the book? Why or why not?

12. "Home" plays a central role in this story—ideas of the perfect home, the homes we make for ourselves, or the ones we're given. What do you think "home" means to Emily? To Sandy? To Jordan? Do their different needs or opinions clash? What does "home" mean to you?

Customer Reviews

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Emily & Einstein: A Novel of Second Chances 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 139 reviews.
raschmidt42 More than 1 year ago
Dog books automatically start with 3 stars for me!  Having said that, this book was different from others I have read that included chapters written by "the dog".   It is a story of courage, family, tenacity, faith in oneself as well as others, facing your demons, forgiveness and understanding that "it is regret that kills, the 'if onlys' that leave the mortal wounds'.  I loved the premise of this book, the style in which it was written - chapters from a deceased husband,  his young widow, and the dog.  In the end, I added two stars to my rating because this book touched me in many ways, making me laugh, nod with understanding and cry like a child with both pain and joy.  This is the first book I have read by this author but am for sure going to check out others. 
JudeEwill More than 1 year ago
Quirky little book. I enjoyed it very much. Enjoyable light read. I recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in a day. It was such a cute story and I had to find out what happened. It was such an easy book to read and get lost in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book begins like so many others, man and woman in love, with some kind of unknown undercurrent. Ho-hum. But then, first plot twist, man is killed in terrible accident. How he finds himself in the body of scruffy dog named Einstein, loving cared for by his widow is a page turner for those who enjoy being able to suspend reality and savor a bit of romance. This book was chosen by our book club and was considered a winner by all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an amazing read. It captivated me more and more with each page! It had me laughing at Einstein's baser doggie instincts and crying with heartbreak for Emily in her rougher moments. I 100% recommend this book for anyone who wants a good read to curl up on the couch with or anywhere for that matter. It's a story of heartbreak, new love, realizing and living your dreams, and strength through gritty rough times. Definitely read this book. You will not be sorry. Unless you don't read it in which case your missing out big time!
Emily DeArdo More than 1 year ago
A touching story about second chances, family, &discovering who we really are & what we cherish. Wonderfully written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend this to anyone who like an easy read that is entertaining. Wonderful message to think about.
GreytDay2Read More than 1 year ago
This is a smart, funny, and wise book. My words will only sell it short. For mothers, daughters, lovers and friends to read and share. If you have ever shared your life with a dog, you may begin to wonder about their keen insights into you. The characters are real, flawed and relative. This story is so personal you may forget it is fiction. You will want to hold those you love, including your pets, a little closer. Prepare to be inspired!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone in a relationship, anyone who has a dog, or just any person with a heart will really enjoy this story. Your emotions will be sent on a roller coaster you feel as if you’re involved. By the end I was crying, but of course a happy and sad cry together. Totally worth it. And a nice light read on beautiful rainy days. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great, loved it. Kept me interested. Took a day and a half to read. Would love to find more like it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bought it on the nook daily find! OMG buy it, it was awesome book. I will look at this author to see what she has written but i don't know if anything can top this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down and read it in one sitting. I am sitting here with tears still rolling down my face. Such a great book. You will not go wrong purchasing this book. It will take you on an emotional roller coaster.
sunsetGR More than 1 year ago
I don't write many reviews, but this was a good book that had me reading till I got to the end of the story.
Livanlearn More than 1 year ago
I could not stop reading this book. It is not the type book I usually read, but the reviews I read caught my interest. I loved it! I was reading in the wee hours of the night because I could not stop. I think this kind of novel really makes us think about what-ifs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Very touching and inspiring.
elp- More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. I feel this would be a good read for even a teenager. Enjoyed. Did not want to put book down. I have just ordered another book by Ms. Lee. I would recommend this book for book club discussions.
Sue5 More than 1 year ago
A book you can read to yourself to to others. Love, loss, and adoption of a dog. Yes, I had tears at the end, but it is a good end.
qwltr More than 1 year ago
This was a very heartwarming story, although a little unbelievable at times. The characters were complex and meshed well with the story line and each other.
joanna98446 More than 1 year ago
This book was a pleasant if predictable read but pretty sacrine. If you just need a diversion it will do but don't expect to learn much about dogs or anything else!