Read After Birth by Elisa Albert Online


A widely acclaimed young writer’s fierce new novel, in which childbirth and new motherhood are as high stakes a proving ground as any combat zoneA year has passed since Ari gave birth to Walker, though it went so badly awry she has trouble calling it “birth” and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Amid the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nigA widely acclaimed young writer’s fierce new novel, in which childbirth and new motherhood are as high stakes a proving ground as any combat zoneA year has passed since Ari gave birth to Walker, though it went so badly awry she has trouble calling it “birth” and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Amid the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights and another impending winter in upstate New York, Ari is a tree without roots, struggling to keep her branches aloft.When Mina, a one-time cult musician — older, self-contained, alone, and nine-months pregnant —moves to town, Ari sees the possibility of a new friend, despite her unfortunate habit of generally mistrusting women. Soon they become comrades-in-arms, and the previously hostile terrain seems almost navigable.With piercing insight, purifying anger, and outrageous humor, Elisa Albert issues a wake-up call to a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives. Like Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Anne Enright’s The Gathering, this is a daring and resonant novel from one of our most visceral writers....

Title : After Birth
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780544273733
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 198 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

After Birth Reviews

  • Rachel Elizabeth
    2018-11-10 01:48

    I didn't enjoy the experience of reading this after its first chapter, but I'm rounding up because I like Elisa Albert and think that this book is important, even if (/because) it's unpleasant.Ari is struggling with postpartum depression as her son turns one. She is upset at length about the fact that she did not "give birth" to her son (a C-section was performed, which she likens to rape post-partum, because it's not what she wanted, although I thought you had to give consent for C-sections? idk, I have no kids, I'd just think you'd have to say "yes, cut into me, doctor" before they'd do it). She doesn't feel like her body is her own any longer, talks about the heavy pain in her breasts as much as she talks about her son, craves a connection to women from her isolation that sometimes becomes confused with sexual desire. She remembers the terror and abuse of her own mother, who died when Ari was in her teens. She wants people to distinguish female bodies from male bodies, rather than saying there's no difference between men and women and calling it feminism.If you've gathered from my description of the book that it's sort of an amorphous feminist rant on specific topics in the broad cloud of motherhood, corporeal and social aspects of...well, you'd be right. Ari is angry about a lot of things that women experience. She's angry about women who make a big deal out of their weddings, she's angry about friends who only exist for men and talk about their boyfriends endlessly when they get them, she's angry she cannot keep hold of her female friends, she's angry about the way a lot of men don't consider the ideas of women without trying to sleep with them or be mothered by them.I have no problem with Ari getting upset about these things. In fact, I think some of these things should upset women, collectively, a lot more. What I didn't like so much was the sustained, unfocused element of Ari's bitterness. I am already on her side about a lot of these issues, I feel the rat in a cage feeling of being a woman at some level, most of the time. For women (and men) who don't really think about these things too often, perhaps this book will be more of a revelation. For me, the experience of reading After Birth was like Ari was poking at my baseline bitterness, trying to push the constant steady throb of it up to maximum anger. I watched the Simon and Schuster interview with Albert linked on the Book of Dahlia page. She says in it that good things don't need close examination, because they're just good, so that is why she deals with life's unpleasantries in her work. And she's right. That's why I like to read books about mean people or people who've done amoral things, because often the cheaters, the criminals, and the garden variety assholes have more going on than just what's happening on the surface. I guess what frustrates me about After Birth is that I think that as far as under the surface of the problem goes, casual misogyny and women's complicity are so enormously accepted and affect all of us and will continue to affect all of us even after this book's publication, because changing centuries of the status quo requires so many people to be conscious of what they do and alter their thought, and that just is not going to happen in my lifetime. I think sexism could be gradually faded out with the generations, as we raise more and more socially conscious girls and boys. But as for now, I just try to point out sexism, whether subtle or overt, when I see it, and give my support to causes that promote women's agency. Those are things that I can do. Beyond them, I feel powerless, because I cannot actually change anyone's mind just by bringing something to their attention.So ultimately, what After Birth does for me, is in small part reminds me of things that I know to be true and in large part, sucks me back in to the vortex of depression. I'm about to start reading romance novels, as part of a personal effort to see if I can find one genre romance that I like at all, and I know that I'll probably encounter some straight sexist bullshit along the way, but dammit, at least those books will be about people finding things to like and love about each other* and that's hopeful. * Meaning more than just T&A. PLEASE GOD LET IT BE MORE THAN T&A.

  • zan
    2018-11-16 04:44

    Five stars for honesty! Five stars for real female friendships. Five stars for telling it like it is and making me cringe and feel a little yelled at but in the way you want someone to yell because it will make them feel better. This book felt like a primal scream, one I really needed to hear after watching so many mothers grin and say "it's hard, but so worth it" when 95% of the time that feels pat and simplified and false and what they are supposed to say, instead of the deep and complex dig into motherhood and womanhood and friendship that this book felt like.

  • Morgan Schulman
    2018-11-12 01:09

    This woman is THE WORST. I was excited to read this book because it's marketed as a feminist tale of post-partum depression, which I really struggled with, but this woman is so anti-feminist it's not even funny. She hates on every single woman she encounters. She's that militant AP mom who hates on mothers who formula feed and accept their c-sections, she's classist as hell and portrays herself as the victim of a poor woman calling out her privilege, she hates on women who have mainstream tastes and want traditional weddings, and, of course, has no friends. Until she meets the gal who compares a medically necessary c section to rape. And of course, she stole her older husband from a woman his age. I kept waiting for her to be shown to be an unreliable narrator but nope. Every awful cliche of the rich NYC hipster bitch.

  • Shawna
    2018-11-21 05:06

    For anyone who has ever wanted to smack those people who say "enjoy every minute!" when you are struggling to get your newborn to sleep/eat/stop crying for 5 minutes...this is a must read.This book is such an emotional, deep, dark, funny, intense look at those blurry days/weeks/months after having your first kid. Although our experiences are not exactly the same, I still relate to this book on a very deep level. I can't tell you how cathartic it has been to read.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-22 08:55

    This is a furious read. It left welts.

  • Sandie
    2018-10-27 01:49

    If you find the idea of an entire novel featuring a woman agonizing over the subject of pregnancy and childbirth while utilizing language consisting largely of four letter words appealing, then by all means pick up a copy of AFTER BIRTH by Elisa Albert. If however, you demand your reading matter contain (1) a plot line that is more substantial than a woman boo-hooing over her life as a mother and smoking weed as a coping mechanism and (2) language that is descriptive but does not rely on repeated expletives to get the point across, I recommend you give this book a pass.Most of us who have experienced childbirth and motherhood know that the experience can be trying at times but Ari (the chief protagonist in this novel) paints a picture so demoralizing it could effectively serve as a replacement for condoms, the morning after pill, and various other forms of birth control in regulating population growth.Ari comes across as an angry woman who has mentally and emotionally exiled herself from the world of productive human beings to that of someone throwing herself a pity party because she became a mother.Perhaps my sympathy gene has been could be that my memory has failed me but I managed to have three children, survived the loss of my spouse when the kids were still adolescents, held down a responsible full time job, and can't recall ever spending hours musing over my lot in life. Maybe I just never had the time!If you value your time, spend it on something more enlightening than AFTER BIRTH.

  • Alex
    2018-11-21 01:48

    If you'd like someone to tell you how to feel about c-sections, formula feeding, circumcision, cry-it-out, and fertility treatments, here is your book. The answers, in order: never, never, never, never, and never.Look, my wife recently gave birth, with a midwife and a doula on her team. I know there are too many c-sections in America, and we hoped to avoid what's called the cascade of interventions. So it's not that I don't understand parts of some of Elisa Albert's arguments. (The beginning parts.) The difference is that I don't presume to tell other people how to have their children, and that I didn't write a book claiming that anyone who gets a c-section has been raped."What is the worth of a person who chooses ignorance?" Albert asks, seriously, about a friend who asks her to stop emailing links comparing medical intervention to rape, writing her right off as a thought zombie and rape inviter. Albert talks a lot about feminism, and make no mistake: if your definition of feminism differs in any way from hers, she thinks you're an idiot. And if you'd like confirmation that her protagonist is her marionette, here are interviews.Here she is on formula: "Plug your kid with some processed milk derivative empowered you are, subverting a basic function of your body," showing absolutely no awareness of the agony and misery some women go through trying to breastfeed. Imagine being a woman who's found herself unable to do so, as some of my friends have, even after enormous effort and consultants and pumping, and then running across this scathing bully just peein' on your face. Albert makes plans to have her next child "naturally," by any means. "If I die trying? If we both do? Fine," she says, choosing the word "fine" to describe death. Here is what Albert thinks of medical intervention: "Like if some corporation convinced us all that shitting is not necessary. You need not labor over the toilet, ladies and gentlemen." Here she is comparing childbirth to pooping. I don't want to get all caught up on the fact that this is a screed written by an asshole who's actively trying to endanger people and overuses bad metaphors involving shit and rape. It's also a novel. But it's hard, because it's more of a rant than a novel. As a novel, it is bad. It has a dire plot problem, in that there isn't one. You can't keep the sock puppet characters straight. I did like the breastfeeding swap idea! I brought it up with our new-parent friends. Most of them felt that it was squicky. Margaret was like *shrug* yeah, I've done it.But again, the headline here is this: if you had a c-section - for any reason, including your life or the life of your child - "You were raped, essentially." Elisa Albert is an asshole. Fuck this book.

  • Jessica
    2018-11-18 01:43

    I’ve never had a baby and I don’t plan on having one. For lots of reasons, some of which are echoed in this book. I have been depressed, though. I’ve been sad, angry, frustrated, and irritable for no other reason than because my brain hates me and that is definitely something that Elise Albert nails. When you are depressed, all logic and rational reasoning goes out the window in favor of negative beliefs and worries that serve to reinforce your depression.I’ve read many negative reviews of this book that were kind of shocking in their lack of empathy. I get that not everyone likes to read about characters who are depressed or wants to read about characters that are depressed, but when it comes to topics like postpartum depression awareness and empathy are some of the best weapons at our disposal. Comments like “motherhood isn’t that bad, stop complaining” demonstrate how badly we need to have representations of what is a very serious problem that many new mothers struggle with. So, yeah, this is a decidedly uncheery look at new motherhood through the eyes of Ari, who has struggled with depression throughout her life. In prose reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, Albert describes the ways Ari struggles throughout her first year of being a mom. She also highlights the ways in which Ari has always struggled to find and maintain female friendships, which is a factor that compounds her postpartum depression. The fact that Ari lost her mother as a teen and the fact that she has so few female friends in her life means that she doesn’t have a strong female support system that can guide her through that first year. Feeling like she can't relate to other women isolates her, which only exacerbates her depression. Over the course of the book, Ari befriends another new mother struggling with depression and she learns how she can become that support system for others. In that regard, the book is very encouraging. It is not particularly plot heavy or linear (that Woolf influence). The tone is fairly bleak and at times crass. It is by no means a pleasant read, but it’s well-written and phenomenally honest. The negative self-talk, the difficulty relating to others, the sense of hopelessness that comes with depression – whether postpartum or not – all rings so very true to me even though I’m not a mother.

  • Jessi
    2018-11-10 03:00

    I didn't always like this book but I did like a lot of the points it had to make. I think Ari, our narrator, will rub some readers the wrong way. Many may be offended by her version of the first year of motherhood. But I think many more will hear an echo of their own experience and understand where she's coming from even if they don't completely agree with or like her. So three things:1. Every woman who has given birth and either had terrible complications during or suffered through months of debilitating depression after or both will likely find something to empathize with in this book. 2. Many, many modern women are facing childbirth and child rearing with little to no support from other women. There is something miraculous about being surrounded by a sisterhood who will tell you the truth - good and bad. Who will show up at a moment's notice. Who knows what you're going through. Ari doesn't really have anyone to notice how deep her depression goes and how much she is struggling under the burden of motherhood and with her disenchantment. Her story might have been a different one if anyone had taken the time to really give a fuck. She has two male friends living next door. One of them points out that so many people are intimidated or annoyed by or scared of new moms and their progeny that we just leave them alone during one of the most difficult changes any person can under take. He says the best thing you can do is just show up. I think this should be a rallying call to all women. If you have friends or sisters or co-workers or whoever at home on maternity leave make the time to visit. Not just once but multiple times. Offer to watch the baby so she can catch a shower or a nap or a meal. Bring food over. And for god's sake don't default to all the sickly-sweet platitudes. Keep it real so that she can share the reality of what she's facing (good and bad) and not feel bad that her experience isn't living up to the perfect picture we have of her experience. And if she expresses unhappiness or disenchantment or fear, pay attention and take her seriously. Men - this all applies to you too if you have wives, sisters, or woman friends.3. If women readers take nothing else from this book, I hope they take away this from Ari's story: women need to give themselves and each other a break. Between the oppression and expectations of a patriarchal society, the hear me roar values of first and second wave feminism, and the perfect media image of woman- and motherhood, we are trying to live up to way to many idealistic expectations. We need to join Ari in saying fuck you to all of those expectations and do the hard work of knowing ourselves and creating our lives the way we want them. If you want to do this for yourself, this means you need to quite being so hard on other women too. No more snide remarks. No more fake nice-y nice and backstabbing. No more anger at other women for making different choices than you. Just stop it. This story made me profoundly grateful that I have women in my life who are amazing, who completely get me, and who would provide back-up for any number of things life can throw at me. Ari made steps to open herself up to this type of friendship. All of us should strive to find people like this in our life and to make time for them. I tip my hat to Elisa Albert for giving me a lot to think about and for making a beautifully written battle cry for women every where.

  • Alyssa Knickerbocker
    2018-11-03 06:54

    So many other Goodreads reviews of this book are basically "this character is not likeable" or "she needs to get over her c-section and pay attention to her husband and child!" and "too many swear words." I feel like I'm reading the bitchy comment section of a Huffington Post article on parenthood. It basically turns this Goodreads page into an ongoing, slow-motion-car-crash piece of performance art in which the book's critiques of society/motherhood/attitudes towards birth are literalized by unwitting reviewers. AFTER BIRTH is maybe the first book I've ever read that has really, truly captured the claustrophobia, bliss, obsession, fear, and loss of self that accompanies new motherhood.

  • Ariel
    2018-10-26 06:41

    Loved this. Crazy dark and laugh out loud funny. Whip smart and mean. I had to stop to underline every five minutes.

  • Ami
    2018-11-06 03:59

    Gorgeous, terrifying, funny, amazing feminist anthem. Fantastic book.

  • brian
    2018-11-19 01:45

    funniest rant since bernhard -- a hell of a lot more than just that, but it's about one in a jillion books that can actually force a chuckle outta my rusty ol' heart. i'm gonna host a dinner with elisa albert, vernon chatman, george carlin, groucho marx, and like stalin or pol pot or hitler. (<-- ya need a humorless strongman as foil, dontcha?)

  • Snotchocheez
    2018-11-08 00:48

    2.5 starsWell it started out pretty good, anyway...Elisa Albert's After Birth, a first person psycho-rant/feminist screed from a doctoral candidate in Women's Studies with a particularly pernicious case of post-partum depression, was surprisingly (unintentionally?) hilarious for the first fifty pages or so. After that though, her I-hate-everyone-yet-why-am-I-so-lonely? schtick was stuck like a scratched record, and became a frightfully cumbersome read. Ms Albert really started losing me when her afflicted main character, Arielle, started having conversations with her dead mother, and attributing her woes to her Jewish lineage. It made me want to scream 'Get over your C-sectioned self and pay attention to your husband and child!' I still found this a semi-worthwhile read, though. It reminded me a lot of Dept. of Speculation, minus the stream of consciousness stuff. It did provide some insight into the plight of someone driven batshit crazy from a problematic pregnancy. Ultimately, though, it was hard to feel anything but ennui from such a completely unsympathetic character stuck in psycho snark mode.

  • Antonia Crane
    2018-11-02 03:46

    Why so angry, Elisa Albert? I detest stories in which women slash other women to the bone because it's clever and for the first 50 pages, I felt stuck in a particularly sharp episode of The Real Housewives of Elisa Albert, but without the hot shoes and expensive blowout. "After Birth" is ripe with clean, smart scenes full of scathing mean, rude bitch remarks on top of snide, smug, ageist, entitled over-educated self pity party prose, but for the first half of the book, it just made me sad. But aren't you clever? Yes, Elisa Albert, You are so motherfucking clever. "After Birth" begins with an ever distasteful affair with a professor where our narrator, Ari wins the man (congratulations and fuck you for being of child-bearing years). This, along with her general petulance makes it impossible to empathize with her whole C section saga. AT FIRST. Ari, who hates all women (especially, it seems, her dead mother), becomes fixated on a prestigious poet, Mina who is very pregnant (we are never told how or why Mina the poet is alone, over 40 and pregnant). Things heat up when Ari, who is as self-obsessed as a bulimic 13-year old (I should know) actually reaches out to help the only other person in the galaxy she respects who owns a vagina: the sexy Mina. They breast feed together. Gross. Why?But that's exactly IT. And that is when I fell in love with the shitbag narrator, Ari because she was driven by spirit of anti-woman feminism. She never stood a chance. Underneath that, Ari was so terrified of becoming her mean mommy that she did become her to a fucking "T." Until she pivoted. Helped someone else. Got out of herself. Moved the fuck ON. This tiny morsel of love and service is whole point of living and the only way towards forgiveness. I loved Ari and Elissa Albert for this: "Adrienne Rich was right. No one gives a crap about motherhood unless they can profit from it. Women are expendable and the work of childbearing, done fully, done consciously, is all-consuming" (Albert, 185). Elisa Albert is playing the anti-feminist to teach us a thing or two about actually loving ourselves. I still wish she could have met my mother when she was alive. But then, we would not have the dangerous pleasure of reading "After Birth."

  • Jaclyn Day
    2018-11-13 05:02

    Holy shit, this book. It hit me hard and I finished it in the space of an hour or two because I couldn’t bear to put it down. To summarize: After Birth is about a woman’s friendships, family, and life generally in the aftermath of having her first child. It is unbearably raw and real. It’s the finest writing I’ve found about how becoming a mother inexorably changes a woman’s relationship to herself and to others. The often conflicting and sometimes disturbing emotions a mother can have in the vulnerable months or years after giving birth are unflinchingly on display in this book. Albert’s writing is honest, with truths that felt like someone had peeled back my scalp and shone a flashlight into dark recesses of my brain that I’d either long tucked away or forgotten existed. Because this book moved me so intensely, here are a few passages I noted to share with you:The baby starts up with the whimpers. I take my cue. Keep the stroller moving, always moving, my reflexive animal sway. Respite over. Maneuver down the block toward the river, up Chestnut, and on home. Put some cheese on crackers and call it dinner. Another day gone, okay, and I get it, I got it: I’m over. I no longer exist. This is why there’s that ancient stipulation about the childless being ineligible for the study for religious mysticism. This is why there’s all that talk about kid having as express train to enlightenment. You can meditate, you can medicate, you can take peyote in the desert at sunrise, you can self-immolate, or you can have a baby, and disappear.I’m not saying it happens every minute of every day, and I’m not saying it renders the other stuff unimportant, but there are moments of the most crazy all-encompassing joy. What a phenomenally beautiful kid. A funny, dear child. […] If the world interferes with him, with what is loving and open and funny in him, I will rear up in full roar. I will break the world’s neck with a swipe of my mighty paw, no warning. Anything fucks with this kid, I will fucking kill it. It’s the wildest thing: I really and truly love him more every day. I had no idea. You supposedly fall in love with them the moment they exit your body, but in the aftermath I was just like WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT. And I have to believe he was just as much ‘what the fuck’ as was I. And there we both were. The relationship develops, the getting to know each other. I mean, he’s completely and totally dependent, which is very intense, but it’s not love. Over time I have to let go of him. That’s love. That’s the work.

  • Alex Flynn
    2018-11-10 06:58

    Brilliant, angry, bat-shit insane, spectacular, brave, and just plain amazing work. As the narrator notes at one point, child-birth and motherhood aren't as exciting as the bullet's flying Gellhorn war reporting or other stories that get a lot of attention, but they are more universal, and sadly, never discussed. The novel spends 3 months with the narrator Ari, still trying to find balance after a traumatic c-section, moving to a shitbox upstate town (Utrech, but clearly, painfully, retchingly Albany), and the loss years earlier of her mother. Ari is not a character trying to win you over, she never saves any cats, and she just doesn't give a damn about you or your opinion. It's quite refreshing since it lends itself to a rare honesty about topics often brushed under the rug. The discussion of c-sections and the trauma of medicalized childbirth were excellent, though very much from the perspective of a character questioning her own sanity and talking to her dead mother. It's not an easy read, but any great book which challenges you, isn't an easy read.

  • Tobias
    2018-11-16 08:45

    Can a novel be described as both dreamlike and visceral? This one pulls it off, I think.

  • Kalen
    2018-11-15 04:40

    I was put off by the title of this book, which of course is titled After Birth very deliberately (and brilliantly, I see now), but after several friends raved, I decided to push the title aside and give this a try. Also, I typically am not very interested in stories about babies and women's experiences with motherhood but the friends recommending this made me think this wasn't your typical "This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me and all women without children are lesser" book. In fact, it's far from it. After Birth is gritty and real and probably much truer to many women's real experiences. The best part of the book is Ari's thoughts on friendships with women and her own friendships, particularly with Mina. So real, so accurate for so many of us. If you liked Love Me Back and The First Bad Man, this one will probably work for you. Should be a great pick for book groups, too, because there is so much food for thought here.

  • Kristi
    2018-11-05 08:50

    Actual rating 3.5. I loved many parts if this book, and yet it often frustrated me to the point I couldn't grade it any higher. Which I kind of felt was the point. The protagonist Ari is essentially Hannah Horvath 10 years in the future, and so I had the same experience as I do when I am watching Girls - partially sick and tired of all of the narcissism and selfishness, but the sense of female comradery, and honest depictions of life experiences as a modern woman in the city keep me hooked. I will read more from Elisa Albert. Recommended.

  • Zora
    2018-11-15 07:09

    This is one of the most female/ feminist books I have ever read: the highest praise and a warning. I'm all wrung out now and I need a wine.

  • Emily
    2018-10-26 07:43

    Goddamn. A real fire-in-your-belly tract about what it is to be a woman and a mother and a human. I want to buy a copy for every woman I know.

  • christa
    2018-11-16 01:52

    At the sweet spot of this book, a relatively new mom is allowed a reprieve from the daily anger that surrounds the birth of her son -- though she won’t use the word “birth” because it is a scene that she describes in more butcher-ish terms. Ari has used the limited tools of her sleepy upstate New York college town to create a small community. Finally. She and a tabloid-bait former Riot Grrrl-turned-poet-slash woman of advanced maternal age, as they call it, are holed up in a sublet exchanging stories and interchangeably parenting each other’s small children. And by “parenting,” I mean breastfeeding.The scene in Elisa Albert’s novel “After Birth” feels like a great place to exhale. It’s one of those scenes where a person wants to freeze everything exactly the way and appeal to a higher power: “This! I choose this! Keep it just like this!” But, of course. As Ponyboy and Frost would say “Nothing gold can stay.” Anyway, Ari is somewhere beyond the second wave of feminism and she’s holed up in an upstate college town where it’s possibly to find friends -- but not the good kind. After her baby is born by C-section, she collapses into feelings of isolation (her mother was awful and is long dead and she’s alienated her old friends by the mere fact of becoming preg). Depression isn’t a new state for her, and she eventually gets her head above water by settling in with the gays down the street. She and her infant become fixtures at their house. Then they go abroad. But they sublet to a former rock-n-roller -- the kind of rock-n-roller who never made it super big, but from the band all the super big rock-n-roller’s credit as an influence. Ari finds Mina in a situation that is similar to her own, and moves in as the wisdom-imparting girlfriend and this mini village becomes a powerful force. In a lot of ways, Albert’s novel feels like it grew up sharing a bedroom with Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation.” Both star new-ish mothers navigating a whole new world, but Albert is centered on the isolation and Offill’s spins into the aftermath of an affair. Neither seems to have gone into the birth with a Pinterest board filled with nursery designs and a notebook filled with vintage baby names. Albert’s Ari is raging because there are so many things that no one tells you (and there is a dissertation that is being ignored), whereas Offill’s protagonist centers on the surprise of the soul-tug when you didn’t even know you had a soul. But I digress: Both are great, great novels absolutely dripping with authenticity.

  • Sara
    2018-11-20 08:00

    God, I wanted to love this book. Beginning kills, writing is balls-out brilliant, hilarious, irreverent, searing precision line after line, subject matter I'm all over, but the indulgent relentlessness, which clearly is intentional, the rant to end all rants, because motherhood is like that, made want to chuck this book at a wall - a desired response, I think - but why? Why not hold the reader - even a little? Deliberately closed circuit, form reflects content, etc, narrator renders everyone other than herself irrelevant. Got it (and then got it again and again and what's this again) Repetition weakened the effect, hence my disappointment. Albert is a ruthless force of genius. She can write the hell out of anything. This book contains countless astounding passages. How I wish she stopped stomping on her own best lines, how I wish the structure moved from yes yes yes to YES AND... so. then what?

  • Courtney Sieloff
    2018-10-22 03:04

    I don't know that I even have the right words for this book. I finally feel understood. This book let me cry for and mourn the impossible birth of my son and now I feel less terrified to have my child in August. Childbirth comes in lots of forms and finally, finally, there is a book that spoke to my birth. Maybe this book isn't for everyone, but this is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.

  • Edan
    2018-10-28 06:48

    Ferocious, bleak, funny, angry, and all too familiar. I really liked this novel, and found its narrator's voice totally startling and delightful. I wanted more from the plot, with the narrator and her riot grrrl neighbor, their friendship, but, then again, I am a plot-lusty reader and almost always have the expectation that a ton will happen and implode. Either way, this is essential reading. A rage-ball!

  • Natalie
    2018-10-30 03:42

    A furious feminist anthem.Left me winded.

  • Jan
    2018-10-27 08:41

    Wonderful book! The ultimate feminist novel of birth and early motherhood, deep with understanding, dense with rage, laughs and insights.

  • Janice(JG) George
    2018-11-06 07:44

    First off, I want to address the C-section issue in the book. Let me begin by saying that I have friends who had C-sections, which were critical medical necessities. Even so, these women went through many years of secret bouts of guilt and shame because of it. Not because of what other people might think, but because of the doubt they lived with - was it the right thing to do? Did it in some way hamper or damage a child's growth or life? No one knows these answers, and it is absolutely normal for women to have questions like this quietly haunting them. Because I have babies so fast (1 1/2 hour labor, like a greased pig), the doctors decided to induce my second daughter. I have never really overcome the sense that maybe I should not have done that, she arrived kicking and screaming, and unlike her all her other siblings, has had nothing but conflict and unhappiness plaguing her life. Did I have something to do with this, by inducing her and changing everything, including the alignment of stars that may have been her salvation?How Ari feels about the C-section did not sound so much like a condemnation of the procedure to me as it did a condemnation of herself for having the procedure... and I can absolutely see how that could be a very cathartic read for women who have been harboring these same thoughts and feelings to themselves, letting it eat them alive.There's no question that the protagonist has issues. Her relationships with women, whom she admits to disliking distrusting in general, clearly grows out of her antagonistic and disappointing relationship with her own mother, who "abandoned" her by dying when Ari was young. Ari hates herself for so many reasons, and this anger and disappointment with herself is made clear and obvious throughout the book. She projects that anger, and that needy desperation for a close female relationship, onto every other character in the story.For me, one of the main messages of the book was directed to the mothers of daughters - educate your daughters about motherhood, tell the truth about parenting, and don't leave them floundering all asea in terrified ignorance - and to women in general, asking that they become the female nurturers to each other during this most traumatizing, important, frightening, and dangerous passage of a woman's life. I thought women had gotten better at this with the re-introduction of midwives, new birthing methods, and family-oriented birthing facilities in hospitals, not to mention just increased awareness and information among and about women. But apparently there is still a lack of female support where there should be community, friends, and family willing to share and nurture.I really liked the book, I liked the author's very perceptive descriptions of the pain of labor, of parental fears and of the awesome obsessive fierce animal love for the child coupled with the desperate need to abandon motherhood in search of self... I liked many of her feminist insights and references, and I liked her relationship with her husband, it felt very authentic - full of love, respect, insecurity, frustration, distance, intimacy, dissatisfying communication, all of it. I liked that she understood how the ego is necessarily crushed in order to survive motherhood, I liked how she called herself out on so many things. I don't, however, think I would recommend reading this book right after giving birth, or as a brand new mother... it really is probably way too close to the bone. When I look back at my mothering, I think I can honestly say I had almost every exact same thought about all of it that Ari did (including about breast feeding - having had both formula babies and breast feeding, which was shockingly painful)... but I am comfortably distant from the reality of it now, and that perspective makes it a much easier and more understandable read.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2018-11-22 02:04

    Looking for a heartwarming story about new motherhood? You won’t find it here. The narrator of Elisa Albert’s second novel, Ari, gave birth to Walker a year ago but still hasn’t gotten over the disruption to her life: the constant demands on her time and affection, the decay of her postgraduate thesis, and post-traumatic flashbacks to her caesarean section. Birth wasn’t the blissful, Earth Mother experience she wanted it to be; it was more like butchery: “nightmare blur of newborn stitches tears antibiotic awake constipation tears wound tears awake awake awake limping tears screaming tears screaming shit piss puke tears.” Now don’t get her wrong; she loves Walker: “He’s an awesome baby, a swell little guy. Still a baby, though, of which even the best are oppressive fascist bastard dictator narcissists.”So even though Ari is reasonably happy and settled in her upstate New York home with her husband Paul (a professor 15 years her senior) and Walker, putting in the occasional shift at the local co-op and sending half-hearted ideas to her advisor, she can’t escape the thought that life isn’t as it should be. That is, until Mina Morris, bassist from a late-eighties girl band, moves to town to sublet her friends’ place while they’re on sabbatical in Rome. Ari had a girl crush on Mina before she ever met her, but when she realizes Mina is nine months’ pregnant, she sees a chance to put her new mommy expertise to good use. She’ll give Mina all the advice and support she wished she’d had. When the need arises, she’ll even breastfeed Mina’s newborn son, Zev. (Albert had a similar experience when her son was failing to thrive from breastfeeding and a friend fed him for her; see her Guardian article.)There isn’t a whole lot of plot to After Birth. Mina comes into Ari’s life for just two months and then moves on. Ari temporarily indulges her fantasy of a feminist collective where women help each other give birth and raise each other’s children; it is enough of a healing experience that she can conceive of resuming her thesis or even – ha! – having another baby. Still, she acknowledges that “the work of childbearing, done fully, done consciously, is all-consuming. So who’s gonna write about it if everyone doing it is lost forever within it? You want adventures, you want poetry and art, you want to salon it up over at Gertrude and Alice’s, you’d best leave the messy all-consuming baby stuff to someone else.”It can be hard to warm to Ari’s sarcastic voice and jarringly short or disorientingly run-on phrases. Albert’s choice to exclude speech marks means that the whole book reads like a sort of fever dream, with past and present and different voices melding. My favorite passage is a monologue by an Oprah-like black nurse who encourages Ari in her early attempts at breastfeeding. There are also frequent flashbacks to Ari’s childhood: Jewish summer camp and the aftermath of her mother Janice’s untimely death. The memories of her mother’s illness (DES treatment leading to breast cancer) and the touches of magic realism as the dead Janice occasionally pops up alongside Ari, usually kvetching about her choices, make this uncannily similar to The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen.After Birth might not prove to be a classic of ambivalent motherhood, but if you’re in the right mood for it I reckon you’ll find it to be a striking novella.(Originally published at my blog, Bookish Beck.)