Review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

 

Title: After Birth

Author: Elisa Albert

Published: Vintage Digital UK April 2015

Status: Read from April 02 to 03, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.

The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari’s unfiltered thoughts raging across each page. Ari is brutally honest about her experience, but abrasively so. She is angry, bitter and self pitying, however it’s fair to say that she is also lost, lonely and deeply conflicted.

” Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the f**k alone…”

It seems likely Ari is experiencing some level of post natal depression, exacerbated by a birth she viewed as traumatic and her difficult relationship with her deceased mother. Motherhood is undoubtedly a huge period of change and adjustment.

“There’s before and there’s after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. Or all of the above. A blessed few resist any of these…”

There were parts of the novel I connected with, I have four children (three of whom were born in three years) so I can relate somewhat to Ari’s experience. New motherhood can be a frustrating, exhausting, frightening and isolating period.

“Endless need. I did not understand how there could be no break. No rest. There was just no end to it. It went on and one and on. There was no end. And I couldn’t relinquish him….because he was mine. There was an agony that bordered on physical when he wasn’t in my arms.”

However I had a hard time dredging up a lot of sustained sympathy for Ari who wallows in negativity. She is so angry, and self-righteous and entitled. I found her rants about c-sections and bottle-feeding particularly off putting.

“The baby’s first birthday. Surgery day, I point out, because I have trouble calling it birth. Anniversary of the great failure.”

For all of the rage in After Birth, Albert raises some important issues about the experience of modern motherhood. It can be such an isolating experience for many women, especially for those who lack the close support of family and friends and it is often difficult for new mother’s to admit, and ask, for help.

“Two hundred years ago-hell, one hundred years ago- you’d have a child surrounded by other women: your mother, her mother, sisters, cousins, sisters -in-law, mother-in-law…. They’d help you, keep you company, show you how. Then you’d do the same. Not just people to share in the work of raising children, but people to share in the loving of children.”

Albert also speaks about friendship, and the way women relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Ari has few female friends, and her closest friends essentially abandon her after her son is born. She latches onto to Mina, the pregnant tenant of friends, who offers her much of the validation she craves.

We set up camp at my house or hers. We listen to music. I like the music she likes….”We say ‘yes’, ‘exactly’, ‘poor thing’ and ‘I know’, ‘I know that’s the whole problem’ and ‘really, well of course!'”

I think the rage in this novel has the potential to both ameliorate and alienate women, I rolled my eyes in derision of what it had to say as often as I nodded my head in agreement. I didn’t enjoy After Birth, nor even really like it, but it is a thought provoking and powerful read.

 

Available to Purchase From

Random House UK  I Amazon UK I BookDepository

IndieBound I via Booko

US Cover

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelrainsnow
    Apr 06, 2015 @ 23:07:07

    Yes, I had a hard time with this one; as much as I wanted to empathize and relate, I found the narrator’s “unfiltered” ranting hard to take, even as I also knew she was probably suffering from postpartum depression.

    Too much negativity makes me want to turn away.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Patty
    Apr 07, 2015 @ 06:56:54

    Yep…I am on the alienation side! Lol!

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  3. Turn the Page Reviews
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 01:01:57

    Great review- I was not able to be as positive as you. I agree it did raise some important issues with motherhood- especially the difficulties involved without a support system. I was close to my mom and two sisters when I had my 2 babies in 18 months and they were a huge help. I also moved away less than 2 years later and experienced how difficult it can be to do alone. But I could not get passed my intense dislike of the main character in this book.

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  4. Sarah "SacaKat" Fairbairn
    May 11, 2015 @ 12:04:31

    The two qoutes you put in scream out to me, because this was me. My son is now two years old and for the first year of his life i was so angry at everything for no reason. It’s really only in the last six months I’ve come to terms with my body “failing” to give birth to my son, i couldn’t see the fact that, hey it managed to grow him perfectly:-/ anyway i’m getting off point. I’m tempted to read this book to know that i wasn’t alone, but at the same time am afraid it would send me back to that horrible dark place. I think that maybe it is a book that should be read by women going through it so they know they are not alone. – I hope that make scene lol.

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    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      May 11, 2015 @ 15:27:30

      It makes sense :)I think part of the reason I struggled with the book was because my first birth was a emergency cesarean, and though it wasn’t what I planned, I was simply happy she was healthy, so I couldn’t relate to Ari’s angst over the whole thing.

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