Alberts, Laurie 1953-
ALBERTS, Laurie 1953-
Born 1953; married; children: one daughter. Education: Hampshire College, B.A.; Iowa Writer's Workshop, M.F.A.
Home—VT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Nebraska Press, 233 N. 8th St., Lincoln, NE 68588-0255. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Has taught at Hampshire College, University of New Mexico, Vermont College, and as an exchange teacher in Russia.
Michener Award; Katherine Anne Porter Prize; American Fiction Award; Pirate's Alley Faulkner Award.
Tempting Fate (novel), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1987.
Goodnight Silky Sullivan (stories), University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1995.
The Price of Land in Shelby (novel), University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1996.
Lost Daughters (novel), University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1999.
Fault Line (memoir), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A memoir set in Russia in the 1980s.
New England author Laurie Alberts is known for her darkly moving fiction. She combines complex interpersonal relationships, especially between parents and children, with a strong sense of place, whether this place is her native New England or a far-flung locale such as Alaska or New Mexico. Critics have lauded her work for its realistic portrayal of pain and suffering along with an undercurrent of hope and optimism.
Alberts' first novel, Tempting Fate, was published in 1987. Allie, the twenty-year-old protagonist, flees her abusive parents and ends up in a small town in Alaska. The novel revolves around her complex relationship with a man named Sonny. Ralph Novak, writing for People, found a "bleak fascination" in this novel despite language that "occasionally seem[ed] clumsy." Goodnight Silky Sullivan, published in 1995, is a collection of six stories tied together by a "sense of immediacy," as a reviewer wrote for Publishers Weekly. This collection's themes include the relationships between parents and children as well as love between American women and Russian men. The Publishers Weekly reviewer called it "a poignant, resonant collection."
In 1996 Alberts published her second novel, The Price of Land in Shelby, which follows the Chartrain family for thirty years. An alcoholic father and a mother dying of cancer give the five Chartrain children a dysfunctional background that follows them into adulthood. Maggie Garb, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the novel "a portrait of rural New England stripped of any trace of sentimentality." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found that "clean prose and empathetic characters" make up for the "lax pace and loose structure," resulting in "a richly observed tale of suffering and survival."
Alberts's novel Lost Daughters tells the story of Allie—a character first introduced in Tempting Fate—and Lila, the daughter Allie gave up for adoption. Allie tries to track down her daughter at the same time Lila decides to find her birth mother. Their stories are told in alternating chapters and inevitably collide by the end of the novel. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the conclusion "contrived and rushed, with too many dramatic plot twists," which made the novel as a whole "affecting but ultimately disappointing." Library Journal contributor Debbie Bogenschutz, however, commended the book's climax as "a real jolt" and noted that Lost Daughters would make "an excellent choice for book club discussion."
In 2004 Alberts published the memoir Fault Line. This book details the author's relationship with Kim Janik, whom she first met when she was in high school and he at Harvard. They had an on-and-off relationship from 1969 to 1984, after which they had virtually no contact until a picture of the couple was found in Janik's car after his mysterious death. A writer for Kirkus Reviews found the book "queasy-making" and "at times too self-eviscerating." However, Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson praised the book as "a thoughtful, wrenching portrait of obsessive love," and Karin Sandlin Silverman, writing for Library Journal, agreed, recommending it as "poignant, if painful, reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Price of Land in Shelby, p. 218; February 1, 2004, Wilkinson, review of Fault Line, p. 942.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of Fault Line, p. 19.
Library Journal, April 15, 1987, Mary Kirk, review of Tempting Fate, p. 95; September 15, 1996, Dawn L. Anderson, review of The Price of Land in Shelby, p. 93; February 15, 1999, Debbie Bogenschutz, review of Lost Daughters, p. 181; February 15, 2004, Karin Sandlin Silverman, review of Fault Line, p. 134.
New Yorker, July 20, 1987, review of Tempting Fate, p. 91.
New York Times Book Review, November 5, 1995, Susannah Hunnewell, review of Goodnight Silky Sullivan, p. 23; November 10, 1996, Maggie Garb, review of The Price of Land in Shelby, p. 56; April 18, 1999, Maggie Galenhouse, review of Lost Daughters, p. 21.
People, July 6, 1987, Ralph Novak, review of Tempting Fate, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, March 20, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Tempting Fate, p. 67; May 22, 1995, review of Goodnight Silky Sullivan, p. 54; September 9, 1996, review of The Price of Land in Shelby, p. 66; February 1, 1999, review of Lost Daughters, p. 75.
Rocky Mountain News, April 16, 2004, Len Edgerly, "'Fault Line' Maps Journey of Obsessive Love," p. D30.*