Catalina by Liska Jabobs: what a fantastic debut!


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 (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa’s ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she’s on vacation, 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 only wants 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.

With the creeping menace of Patricia Highsmith and the bender-chic of Bret Easton Ellis, Liska Jacobs brings you inside the mind of an angry, reckless young woman hell-bent on destruction—every page taut with the knowledge that Elsa’s path does not lead to a happy place. Catalina is a compulsive, deliciously dark exploration of beauty, love, and friendship, and the sometimes toxic desires that drive us.

Taken from the publisher’s website:

Captura de ecrã 2018-09-25, às 11.58.52

Why should you read this book?

Let me just start by stating that Catalina by Liska Jacobs is an incredible debut. And who is Liska Jacobs? The author holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of BooksLiterary HubThe Millions, and The Hairpin, among other publications.

Elsa is the main character of this novel and is headed for rock bottom. After being fired from MoMa, she returns to Los Angeles where she re-encounters her college friends who are arranging a trip to Catalina. This novel deals with addiction, self-love (or lack of it), friendship and identity.

I think this book can be considered a LA/California noir. I really loved the way Jacobs wove this melancholic, sad and lost main character. There is something about Elsa that moves you deeply. She’s a reminder of what can happen to each one of us. After all, life is unpredictable and we can fall into a path of self-destruction very quickly.

Besides this gloomy atmosphere, this novel was so well-written. Liska Jacobs is certainly a very promising writer. The language was razor-sharp and there were some memorable and impactful quotes. I was so drawn to this book not because it is a page-turner but because it beautifully portrays a darkness that lives inside of each and every one of us.

I’d like to thank MCD Books for the free copy. You can buy it here.

“The problem with drinking and pills is that at some point you wake up like this. (…) Have I died? Has the world whisked me away? And then it hits you all at once: this is my life.”

Book Details:

Publisher: MCD Books (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)
Published on: 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 232
Price: $15.00

4 stars

One thought on “Catalina by Liska Jabobs: what a fantastic debut!

  1. Pingback: September Wrap-Up – Books Turn You On

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