The author of the story collection How This Night Is Different (2006) considers mortality in her first novel.
A typical day for 29-year-old Dahlia Finger revolves around toaster pastries, weed and crappy movies on TV. It does not involve looking for a job or a purpose. It does not involve leaving the sweet little cottage in Venice that her father bought for her. Indeed, it does not involve leaving the sofa, so it’s easy to see how lethargy is a symptom she might not notice. A Grand Mal seizure, on the other hand, is pretty hard to miss, and this is how Dahlia discovers that she has brain cancer. Terminal illness does not make Dahlia noble or brave. It makes her angry, sad and terrified, and Dahlia approaches death with the same cynicism, irony and mass-market touchstones that have guided her through life. Albert offers a fresh take on dying young, one that is without sentiment or romance. She does not, however, produce a satisfying novel. While there is a certain mordant humor in the fact that Terms of Endearment is the last movie Dahlia watches before her diagnosis, the pop-cultural references are generally unilluminating clichés. “Bottom line, nobody survives a Glioblastoma. Kind of like nobody puts Baby in a corner, dig?” Well, no, not really. The general structure and style of the book present a more serious problem. Albert seems overwhelmed by the relative spaciousness of the novel form. Most of the narrative is given to long passages of exposition—lots of telling, little showing—as Dahlia reflects on her life. The ending is bracing and poignant, but, as she spends more time in Dahlia’s past than her present, Albert avoids the very topic she seems determined to confront.
A disappointing attempt from a talented writer.