How This Night is Different

Free Press  2006

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.

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