A widely acclaimed young writer’s fierce novel, in which childbirth and new motherhood are as high stakes a proving ground as any combat zone
A 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.
"In lesser hands, Ari might be unlikable, but Albert imbues her with searing honesty and dark humor, and the result is a fascinating protagonist for this rich novel."
"After Birth is a voluptuous, hilarious, scaldingly and exhilaratingly honest account of new motherhood, emotional exile, and the complex romance of female friendship. I'm a huge Elisa Albert fan, and in her latest she has perfected a tonal pivot that whips the reader from laughter to revelation in a sentence."
—Karen Russell, author of Sleep Donation and Swamplandia!
"A deep, funny novel about the terrors and exhilarations of love in all its forms. Elisa Albert writes with startling clarity and furious wit about marriage, motherhood and friendship, illuminating these familiar landscapes with lightning flashes of revelation."
—Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
"After Birth is a fast-talking, opinionated, moody, funny, and slightly desperate account of the attempt to recover from having a baby. It is a romp through dangerous waters, in which passages of hilarity are shadowed by the dark nights of earliest motherhood, those months so tremulous with both new love and the despairing loss of one's identity—to read it is an absorbing, entertaining, and thought-provoking experience."
—Lydia Davis, author of Can't and Won't
"Bukowski wrote that he preferred people who scream when they burn, and nobody burns, or screams, like Elisa Albert—a fiercely intelligent, dark and funny woman unafraid of her own anger."
—Shalom Auslander, author of Hope: A Tragedy
“Darkly funny and impossibly wise, Elisa Albert creates a visceral sense of entrapment, a spot-on account of life as a woman. After Birth is dangerous, gripping, and essential—The Bell Jar of our time."—Diana Spechler, author of Skinny
"Ari is the profane, generous, poetic, desperate, loving, terrified best friend we all hope for. Sleep-deprived and thrumming with the electricity of new motherhood, she stumbles upon pockets of community and support in places expected and unexpected that cut through her small-town isolation and the clutch of post-partum depression. Elisa Albert wields humor like a blade in relaying Ari’s thoughts, and is a master of conveying the gorgeous struggle of birth and all that comes after."
—Katie Presley, BookPeople, Austin, TX
"WOW! Albert's novel rips the lid off what it is really like to be a new mother in today's United States. Ari, our narrator, is the mother of a 1 year old boy, and she is still having trouble settling into or even defining the role of "mother." Giving birth by C-section makes her feel like a failure, and the snide comments made about breast-feeding by her husband's colleagues at faculty events inspire homicidal thoughts. Not so much a novel as a hyper-articulate rant about society's commodification of childbirth and maternity, After Birth will have mothers (and others) talking long after they've finished this provocative call to arms."
—Susan Taylor, Market Block Books, Troy, NY
"Albert says everything women think, but don't say, unless they are speaking to their best friend. I laughed out loud. A lot. As a mother of two, I loved how she explored this time, after the birth of a first child, with bare-bulbed honesty and an acerbic wit that gave way to humor around nearly every turn. This is the first book I've read that does this after birth period justice, and I've already recommended it to new, as well as more established, mothers."
—Michaela Carter, Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, AZ
"With honesty, wit and a cool eye Elisa Albert reveals the day-to-day lonely howl of new motherhood in "After Birth". Where is the community of women that might empower and support a new mom? This is a book that I would like to put in the hands of all mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who ask this questions and say, 'Right in here.'"
—Jacqueline Kellachan, The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, VT
"After Birth is a literary manifesto of modern motherhood - of the struggles women face without the communal support and traditional wisdom that women received before the onset of modern obstetrics. It is about the ways in which women choose to embrace one another or tear each other down. Narrated by Ari, a woman whose own mother was cold and distant and died young, has no women to turn to after her son is born by C-section and she finds herself living in an unfamiliar body and an unfamiliar life. Ari's voice is strong and fearless, even in her most vulnerable moments. She grabs hold of the reader, demands to be heard."
—Sandy Scott, Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT