After Birth

  • Review
By – November 18, 2014

Prun­ing in an undis­si­pat­ing cloud of post­par­tum depres­sion in Utrecht, New York a full year after her Cae­sare­an sec­tion, Ari devel­ops a pre­emp­tive fas­ci­na­tion with the woman sub­let­ting her neighbor’s house: Mina Mor­ris, the bass play­er from a late-eight­ies Ore­gon punk girl band called the Misog­y­nists, now an acclaimed poet with a vis­it­ing fellow­ship at the local uni­ver­si­ty. Despite an attempt of friend­ly land­lord-by-proxy emails to her new crush, how­ev­er, Ari con­tin­ues to restrict her­self to her own domi­cile, leav­ing only to work her week­ly shift at the co-op and flail with her unwrit­ten dissertation. 

When far­away sight­ings of Mina around town reveal that the for­mer punk rock­er is on the brink of giv­ing birth, Ari reflects on her own preg­nan­cy and first months with the baby. She has not over­come the trau­ma of her surgery, or that of her cur­tailed rela­tion­ship with her Bitch from hell” moth­er, the daugh­ter of a Holo­caust sur­vivor who sur­vived the camps as young com­fort woman to the Nazi guards and, prone to mis­car­riages in her lat­er life, under­went exper­i­men­tal fer­til­i­ty treat­ments that bloomed into ter­mi­nal can­cer in the baby they saved — Ari’s moth­er — when Ari was a young girl. Strug­gling with the iso­la­tion of rear­ing a child with­out mater­nal guid­ance, Ari turns to mem­o­ries of her moth­er to pun­ish her­self and slump fur­ther into untreat­ed depres­sion and self-loathing. 

But when Mina seems to be even more alone in the world with her new­born that win­ter, Ari finds a new sense of pur­pose. As the two women nest in the sub­let home, com­munally nurs­ing and car­ing for their chil­dren togeth­er, Ari recon­sid­ers every sig­nif­i­cant female rela­tion­ship she’s ever held, question­ing the par­tic­u­lar brand of fem­i­nism to which her men­tors anoint­ed her and embrac­ing her new, self-appoint­ed role as the town wet­nurse.” But is this utopia of sis­ter­ly love that Ari and Mina have estab­lished sustain­able? Ten­sions rise as both women adapt to moth­er­hood and learn to cope with the harsh fam­i­ly his­to­ries they each car­ry, ulti­mate­ly find­ing com­fort in the friends they nev­er knew they had. 

Abra­sive­ly hon­est and refresh­ing­ly un­couth, Elisa Albert’s seething new nov­el is an unapolo­getic rage of wom­an­hood, child­birth, fem­i­nism, and family.

Relat­ed Content:

Read Elisa Albert’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Into The Stew

Five Sim­ple Ways To Be Good To A New Mom

Video: Book Trailer

Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.

Discussion Questions