The Book of Dahlia: Book summary and reviews of The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert

The Book of Dahlia

by Elisa Albert

The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert X
The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2008
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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).

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Her brilliant style makes the novel's central question-should we mourn a wasted life? - shockingly poignant as Dahlia hurtles toward death." - Publishers Weekly.

"The ending is bracing and poignant, but, as she spends more time in Dahlia's past than her present, Albert avoids the very topic she seems determined to confront. A disappointing attempt from a talented writer." - Kirkus Reviews.

"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.

"The Book of Dahlia does not go gently into that good night -- each line howls with pain and rage and laughter. It takes an unflinching look at terminal illness in our culture of sunny denial and doesn't let readers off the hook, either -- this book will bring you to your knees. It's also the funniest thing I've read in years." - Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

"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. Highly recommended for all serious fiction collections." - Library Journal.

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Elisa Albert (born 1978) is the author of the short story collection How This Night is Different and the novel The Book of Dahlia. She has taught creative writing at Columbia University and is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Holland.

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