How This Night is Different

  • Review
By – November 15, 2011
Elisa Albert turns the hall­marks of Jew­ish reli­gious obser­vance upside down in this sassy debut col­lec­tion. The fun­ny lines come thick and fast; the dia­logue is dead­on. Albert knows the ter­rain inti­mate­ly.

Most remark­able is the quest­ing, the sud­den ten­der­ness, the wis­dom. In The Moth­er Is Always Upset,” Mark, a brand new father wait­ing out­side a locked bed­room door, won­ders what the mohel could pos­si­bly be say­ing to his angry, sleep-deprived wife to make her relax her grip on her son and offer him up to the gap­ing maw of a tra­di­tion that exclud­ed her.” 

In We Have Tres­passed,” the pro­tag­o­nist, recov­er­ing from an abor­tion, has come home to spend Yom Kip­pur with her anorex­ic sis­ter and their par­ents. By the end of the fast she comes to the real­iza­tion that There was no big vic­to­ry in hav­ing fast­ed this long…I should have fast­ed indef­i­nite­ly. I should be fast­ing still.” 

The sto­ries present a cross-sec­tion of smart, ambiva­lent young Jews seek­ing accep­tance and mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion. Sup­port­ing play­ers include a cleav­age-bar­ing grand­ma, psy­cho-spout­ing rab­bis, jad­ed thir­teen-year-olds. 

These sto­ries are not dis­mis­si­ble. The potent mix of irrev­er­ence and deep sad­ness in How This Night Is Dif­fer­ent pro­claims Elisa Albert a writer worth watching.
Judith Felsen­feld book of short fic­tion, Blaustein’s Kiss, was pub­lished in April, 2014. Her sto­ries have appeared in numer­ous mag­a­zines and lit­er­ary reviews, includ­ing The Chica­go Review, The South­west Review, Blue Mesa, and broad­cast nation­wide on NPR’s Select­ed Shorts.

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