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Book Title: The Book of Dahlia|
Date of issue: March 1st 2008
ISBN 13: 9780743291293
The author of the book: Elisa Albert
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 344 KB
Edition: Free Press
Read full description of the books The Book of Dahlia:Dahlia is a 29 year old, profane, pot smoking, leach who lives off her father; perennially consoling him with promises of graduate school. Truthfully, Dahlia doesn't have much interest in anything outside her Venice, California home. When a grand mal seizure brings a large and malignant brain tumor to the forefront of her consciousness, Dahlia must undergo a series of painful treatments and fight to survive. But the truth is, she isn't sure that she wants to fight or survive. Characteristically, Dahlia lets her parents do all the work- her father taking notes, fighting, being optimistic; her mother grieving loud enough for the both of them. Is this girl lazy or what?
Throughout the book we learn more about Dahlia's life and history. Her troubled childhood- abandonment by her mother and brother, her father's inability to cope- they all created the malignant anger inside her as sure as her body generated that ravenous brain tumor. We learn her laziness is born out of witnessing the uselessness of action (exhibit a. Rabbi Dan, the jerky brother).
Albert was so successful in presenting Dahlia's character flaws as a function of past abuse, that by the end of the book I was rooting for her. I wanted Dahlia to live, reconcile with her brother, go to graduate school, find a nice boy, get married, have kids.
So, if you can get through wanting to kill off Dahlia yourself in the first few chapters, it's quite a rewarding read. There is character development, of sorts. A revelation or two, though perhaps it comes to us, the readers, rather than Dahlia herself.
With "The Book of Dahlia", Albert asks if some pretty big questions: If we say that people who survive cancer do so through sheer force of will, does that mean people who waste, succumb and ultimately die didn't really want to live bad enough? Does it mean that they just didn't have the drive, a positive enough attitude? And what if the latest victim hasn't led a full life, was wasted the years allotted to them. Should we care? Should we mourn? Does it matter?
Dahlia often thinks about Julia G., a classmate who died in high school. Is it a crime, she wonders, that she lived longer and wasted it? Well, is it? Read the book and decide for yourself.
Albert's method of narration is a bit unusual. She needs to use Dahlia's voice to tell the story. Dahlia's speech patterns (think profanity) and love of pop culture are an integral part of her characterization, so the narrator must be Dahlia. But, using 1st person would greatly limit the story here as all parts the where Dahlia was unconscious would have to be told second hand. This would reduce the immediacy of the story. No author wants that. So, Elisa Albert has Dahlia tell the story in third person. Reading this book, I was left with the impression that I was talking to someone at a bar. The conversation was urgent, unorganized and sprinkled (well awash, really) in profanity. I could almost imagine Dahlia French inhaling across from me, pausing occasionally for another drink.
However, because Dahlia is the narrator (at least, this is what I felt when reading the book) we're left to question the authenticity of the narrative. Was Dahlia's mother _really_ that indifferent? Was her brother _really_ that callous? We could take the novel at face value, but we don't have to. "The Book of Dahlia" can be read on as many levels as whorls in its namesake flower; ever opening to new levels of complexity. Good stuff.
Read information about the authorELISA ALBERT, author of The Book of Dahlia and a collection of short stories, has written for NPR, Tin House, Commentary, Salon, and the Rumpus. She grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in upstate New York with her family.
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