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How This Night Is Different: Stories Paperback – February 12, 2008
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Elisa Albert's How This Night Is Different is a hilariously irreverent collection of short stories that will leave readers longing for more from this talented newcomer. While some might find the self-deprecation off-putting at times (one of the stories features a thirtysomething woman who brings her non-Jewish boyfriend home for Passover and is rewarded with a raging yeast infection), Albert is perceptive enough to see beyond the stereotype of the self- hating Jew and shed real light on the familial and personal conflicts that affect most young adults, regardless of religion.
While each of the ten stories is impressive, a few are notable standouts. "The Living" tells the story of Shayna Marlowitz, a high school student who travels to Poland to visit the concentration camps as part of the Northeastern "We Are The Living!" delegation. While most of the other kids spend the time hooking up and trading velour jumpsuits, Shayna is consumed with producing a journal to rival that of her brother Max, who came back from the same trip years earlier with the "implication that said life had begun in Poland, that he knew secret things, the knowledge of which imbued him with special powers, a special place in the world." In "Everything But," Erin accompanies her narcissistic husband Alex to his niece's Bat Mitzvah, and spends half the party in the bathroom, smoking a joint with the "Cool Kids." The collection culminates in an extraordinary fan/love letter by the author herself to Philip Roth, in which she decides the only way to "produce something literary and lasting" is to bear his child.
How This Night Is Different is hardly ever politically correct, and might even be offensive to some, but that doesn't change the fact that Albert is an astute and intuitive social commentator, not to mention a riot to read. Those who are willing to throw piety to the wind will be rewarded with an exhilarating ride. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Titled to reflect the customary question asked at Passover, these 10 stories by debut writer Albert explore traditional Jewish rituals with youthful, irreverent exuberance as her characters transition into marriage and child-rearing. In "Everything But," dutiful daughter Erin finds herself, after her mother's death, disturbed by the lovelessness of her marriage. In "So Long," Rachel has become "born again" as an Orthodox Jew and resolved to have her head shaved before her marriage, as per custom; the narrator, Rachel's maid of honor, struggles to suppress her sarcastic disbelief. "The Mother Is Always Upset" plays on the familial chaos of ritual circumcision (the bris): tearful mother Beth cowers in the bedroom, while exhausted new father Mark takes his cue from the sanguine mohel. And Albert, writing as nice Jewish girl Elisa Albert, becomes a cocksure writer determined to have the last word in the hilariously vulgar postmodern final story, "Etta or Bessie or Dora or Rose"—an unabashed autobiographical fan letter to Philip Roth, "the father of us all." (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This was recommended to me by a Jewish-Catholic friend who was very dear to me through college, and I'm glad I read it. The people in each of her stories had a complexity that is hard to find in shorts.. there was depth attained in paragraphs that would take others pages or chapters to attain. I found some of them to be a little bitter about life or their religion - but I books with angry and/or depressed and/or repressed women have their place too.
The characters alone made the book well worth the money, and I'm certianly going to pay attention to her future published works. The last short story had me smiling and giggling at the absurdity of it all.
The author is a young Jewish woman writing mostly about young Jewish female characters, so there is certainly a sense of familiarity once you've read a few of the stories, but that familiarity never descends into redundancy. Human beings, regardless of gender and religious persuasion, are infinitely complex, and Elisa touches on a vast range of experiences and emotions in these stories.
Highly recommended, and don't forget to look for her novel next year!
*Full disclosure: Elisa and I ARE good friends. We would both tell you, though, that we are good ENOUGH friends that I wouldn't take the time to write such a review if I didn't mean it. This review is my honest, unfiltered opinion of her work.
The dialogues seemed contrived and unconvincing. I read the entire book hoping to find a story that would justify the purchase price; I was unable to do so. I really felt sorry for the characters who found themselves in these stories, but hopefully they are fictional and will not need to read their portraits.
However, if you like to read details about yeast infections and graphic accounts of vaginal itch, this may be the book for you.
When I first started this collection of stories, I didn't think I'd like them. As I read through them, though, they began to grow on me. I have to say that, by the time I finished this book, I had to admit I found the stories very entertaining. "Etta or Bessie or Dora or Rose" was the most powerful, but my two personal favorites were "When You Say You're A Jew" and "So Long" because they echoed my personal experiences. I will certainly recommend this book to others.
(P.S. Yes, it's true, I know the author and, yes, if being in love with the author disqualifies the reviewer, then you should disqualify me, but read HOW THIS NIGHT IS DIFFERENT anyhow--you'll be very glad that you did)
Most recent customer reviews
I found this book to be written by a bitter person who doesn't understand much about being Jewish.Read more