Thank you, FSG Originals, for this copy of Catalina by Liska Jacobs. All thoughts and images are my own.
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that’s her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends receives Elsa with open arms and a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.
But Elsa doesn’t want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and wants only to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.
There are few characters in the history of books that I have hated more than I hated Elsa. She was destructive and selfish – Jacobs blesses her with a keen sense of insight, which only makes it all the more horrible when she ignores her intelligent perceptions of the people around her and hurts them anyway.
No one ever addresses her dependency on alcohol and drugs in any real way; throughout the novel, she interacts with her mother, her lover, her ex-husband, and her closest friends from childhood and college. The most anyone says is her ex-husband noticing that she is on “another bender.” Everyone acknowledges how intoxicated she is the entire time but no one seems concerned about the effect this is most likely having on her body.
I found this book painful with no payoff. Want to form your own opinions? Find it here on Amazon or at your local independent bookstore, and then let’s compare.