Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pg. 69: Elisa Albert's "The Book of Dahlia"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Elisa Albert's The Book of Dahlia.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of the critically acclaimed story collection How This Night Is Different comes a dark, arresting, fearlessly funny story of one young woman's terminal illness. In The Book of Dahlia, Elisa Albert walks a dazzling line between gravitas and irreverence, mining an exhilarating blend of skepticism and curiosity, compassion and candor, high and low culture.

Meet Dahlia Finger: twenty-nine, depressed, whip-smart, occasionally affable, bracingly honest, resolutely single, and perennially unemployed. She spends her days stoned in front of the TV, watching the same movies repeatedly, like "a form of prayer." But Dahlia's so-called life is upended by an aggressive, inoperable brain tumor.

Stunned and uncomprehending, Dahlia must work toward reluctant emotional reckoning with the aid of a questionable self-help guide. She obsessively revisits the myriad heartbreaks, disappointments, rages, and regrets that comprise the story of her life -- from her parents' haphazard Israeli courtship to her kibbutz conception; from the role of beloved daughter and little sister to that of abandoned, suicidal adolescent; from an affluent childhood in Los Angeles to an aimless existence in the gentrified wilds of Brooklyn; from a girl with "options" to a girl with none -- convinced that cancer struck because she herself is somehow at fault.

With her take-no-prisoners perspective, her depressive humor, and her extreme vulnerability, Dahlia Finger is an unforgettable anti-heroine. This staggering portrait of one young woman's life and death confirms Elisa Albert as a "witty, incisive" (Variety) and even "wonder-inducing" writer (Time Out New York).
Among the praise for the novel:
"Albert writes with the black humor of Lorrie Moore and a pathos that is uniquely her own, all the more blistering for being slyly invoked."
The New Yorker

"Hilarious and heartbreaking...Albert's superb first novel...delivers Dahlia's laissez-faire attitude toward other people and lack of ambition with such exactness as to strip them of cliché and make them grimly vivid. Her brilliant style makes the novel's central question-should we mourn a wasted life?-shockingly poignant."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Elisa Albert has the unique gift of making bedmates out of humor and heartbreak. The Book of Dahlia is wonderful."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan

"While Elisa Albert's darkly brilliant first novel, "The Book of Dahlia," may well keep you up at night, it's hardly a thriller. Instead, Albert has written something far rarer - a book so original in its voice and vision that it's truly thrilling... Readers looking for a depiction of illness as a crucible for the triumph of the human spirit will be disappointed. But this book keeps its steadfast focus on a more complicated truth, and that is its triumph."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Is Dahlia's wasted life a waste of life? Maybe. But the time we spend with her isn't."
Los Angeles Times

"Albert has given readers a no-holds-barred portrait of terminal illness. This is not a gentle book, but it is an authentic and important one."
Library Journal, starred review

“Dahlia’s high-stakes story is always compelling.”

"[I]t's Dahlia's vulnerability, captured in conversational prose, that makes her struggle poignant... a resonant tune that shifts from being fierce and funny to lovely and moving as it ultimately turns into a lament."
Time Out New York
Read an excerpt from The Book of Dahlia, and learn more about the author and her work at Elisa Albert's website.

Albert is also the author of the short story collection, How This Night is Different.

The Page 69 Test: The Book of Dahlia.

--Marshal Zeringue