From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When Dahlia Finger—a 29-year-old, pot-smoking, chronically underachieving Jewish-American princess—learns that she has brain cancer, the results are hilarious and heartbreaking in Albert's superb first novel (following the story collection How This Night Is Different
). Opening in the Venice, Calif., cottage to which Dahlia has retreated, at her father's expense, after unsuccessfully trying to forge a life in New York, chapter one begins with the omniscient narrator's scathingly Edith Wharton–worthy catalogue of Dahlia's symptoms and ends with her first grand mal seizure. As Dahlia endures blistering radiation, sits numbly through her support group, smokes medical marijuana (with her crisis-reunited divorced parents) and carries a condescending book called It's Up to You: Your Cancer To-Do List
, Albert masterfully interweaves Dahlia's battle with flashbacks, most tellingly involving her complexly overbearing Israeli mother, Margalit (who unceremoniously imploded the family decades earlier), and contemptuous older brother, against whom Dahlia has never learned to defend herself. Throughout, Albert delivers Dahlia's laissez-faire attitude toward other people (men especially) 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 as Dahlia hurtles toward death. (Mar.)
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Dahlia Finger, the heroine of this début novel, is a sarcastic, self-absorbed Jewish American Princess, twenty-nine years old and living in a desirable bungalow in Venice, California, bought for her by her lawyer father. Shes also, thanks to Alberts control of tone and timing, one of the most likable characters in recent fiction, as self-aware about her bad habits (smoking pot, wallowing in hopelessness, refusing to engage with her broken family) as she is incapable of changing them, even when diagnosed with a "level four" tumor in the left temporal lobe of her brain. Basing her chapters on a self-help book that Dahlia buys ("Its Up to You: The Cancer To-Do List"), 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.
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