Cookin' the Brookes: AFTER BIRTH by Elisa Albert

Article by brooke

Once in a while, our returns manager Brooke picks a great book and pairs it with some tasty food. This is Cookin’ the Brookes!

The book: AFTER BIRTH by Elisa Albert

After Birth Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544273733
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - February 17th, 2015

Elisa Albert’s new novel AFTER BIRTH delivers a delightful suckerpunch. Albert tosses you right into the lonely middle of her heroine’s life with a description of the seen-better-days college town where her husband is a professor: “The buildings are amazing in this shitbox town.”

What an opener, right? I was hooked. If you’re not down with a lot of swearing, this is probably not the book for you. But let me just say, when Elisa Albert peppers her prose with four letter words, it is for the sake of hilarity and emphasis. No one can spike an exclamation point or deploy italics like Albert. (Fine, you’re right, Tom Wolfe can also use the heck out of an exclamation point, but the list ends there.) Albert manages to capture thought in flight and thoughts can be ugly. And vulgar. And hilarious. This book is all that and more.

The main action in this densely packed novel takes place in Ari’s neighborhood, where she struggles with taking care of her infant son. She has a caring husband, but she still finds herself “terrifically lonely.” The isolating pressures of new motherhood come as a hard surprise. When Ari sees pregnant women, she wants to yell at them, “ I mean are you ready!? Like, spiritually bitches. Spiritually.”

Ari’s life takes a turn for the better when she befriends her new neighbor, Mina Morris, a former bassist for an eighties girl band who is now pregnant. Their friendship is a mutual lifeline.

Although the action of the book takes place in a relatively small window of time, Albert weaves in Ari’s history--her mother’s death, a string of character-forging friendships and how she met her husband. The book is also filled with one-liners like this: “People are forever saying dumb things at profound moments; it’s the human condition.”

Reading this intense novel, you get the sense that Elisa Albert set out to put everything on the table. To say everything she wished she had known before she had her own baby. Forget WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING. Give your friends AFTER BIRTH.

This book could probably also double as very effective birth control.

The restaurant: Poscol Restaurant and Vinoteca
Shortly after Mina gives birth, both she and her newborn are having a rough go. Ari comes over, and like any good friend, Ari thinks, “First things first,” and makes her friend some food. It’s just a bowl of pasta, but Mina scarfs it down.

While you are enjoying this delightful screed of a novel, eat some pasta that’s so good you can’t even pronounce it: tagliolini, pappardelle, tagliatelle. Pair that pasta with wine--unlike our breast-feeding heroines, you can have a drink!

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