Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Friday, November 19, 2010

What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen - Book Blog Tour Stop

Today, I am hosting a book blog tour stop for "What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir" by Alice Eve Cohen.

About The Book:

Alice Cohen was happy for the first time in years. After a difficult divorce, she had a new love in her life, she was rais­ing a beloved adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming. Then she started experiencing mysterious symptoms. After months of tests, x-rays, and inconclusive diagnoses, Alice underwent a CAT scan that revealed the truth: she was six months pregnant.

At age forty-four, with no prenatal care and no insurance coverage for a high-risk pregnancy, Alice was besieged by opinions from doctors and friends about what was ethical, what was loving, what was right.

With the intimacy of a diary and the suspense of a thriller, "What I Thought I Knew" is a ruefully funny, wickedly candid tale; a story of hope and renewal that turns all of the "knowns" upside down.

My Thoughts:

"What I Thought About You" is an extremely thought-provoking memoir. Alice Eve Cohen documents her journey from disbelief at being pregnant at age 44 - to the agony of finding out her child would be born with physical difficulties - to the near-insanity that she experienced with the most extreme post-partum depression I've ever read about - to final acceptance and becoming a champion for her child.

That being said ... here is my opinion (and I state firmly - this is only MY opinion!) ... this book infuriated me!

I totally understood Ms. Cohen's emotional struggles with the shock of discovering she was in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy six months into the pregnancy and that her newborn child would be facing a lifetime of adversity with physical handicaps and possible genital ambiguity.

What I couldn't reconcile myself with was her hysteria and nearly manic conflict over whether she should abort the child (late in the pregnancy it was risky) or whether she should put the child up for adoption after birth if it was as severely handicapped as the doctors predicited. I was shocked that she was still in talks with an adoption group several weeks after her child was born.  What mother does this?

As a child born with severe physical handicaps (congential hip dysplasia as a child and scoliosis as a teen resulting in a lifetime of surgeries beginning at six months old and rehabilitation), my parents too had some tough decisions to make about my welfare and existence, especially after they were told I would never take a step. I am so profoundly grateful that they stood by my side and were with me every step of the way. I am confident in the knowledge that they never once thought of putting me up for adoption because I wasn't perfect.  (and, by the way, I defied their diagnosis and have take several million steps since my birth and will continue to keep stepping to the end, I hope!).

And when I was faced with the same uncertainity when my second son was diagnosed (through ultrasound) with having a cleft palate before he was born, I never once had any thought of giving him up, just because there might be something different about him. My husband and I agreed that we would do whatever it took to make sure he had every chance in life that he could. (thankfully, the ultrasound was wrong, and my son didn't have any problems at all).

So while I understand Ms. Cohen's extreme worries, I just couldn't get past her continual thoughts of "getting rid" of this child. I truly wanted to jump into the pages and give her a good shake and tell her to "snap out of it!" I wholeheartedly admired her husband Michael's persistence and support of his wife, and the total acceptance of baby Eliana by Ms. Cohen's older daughter Julia.

I was thankful to see that by the end of the book Ms. Cohen had finally "pulled her head out" and became a strong advocate for her daughter.  As she says at the end of the book - "I love both of my daughters ...I love the one I desperately wanted and the one I desperately didn't want."

It isn't often that a book riles me up, and this one did, but I have to be honest in my review. The best I can say is "What I Thought I Knew" will provoke a lot of thinking upon completion.

About The Author:

Alice Eve Cohen is a solo theatre artist, playwright, and memoirist. Her memoir, What I Thought I Knew (Viking, 2009) won the Elle’s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Nonfiction. She has written for Nickelodeon, PBS, and CBS. Her plays have been presented at theatres throughout the country, and she has toured her solo theatre works internationally. Her writing about arts in education has been published in nine languages. The recipient of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, she holds a BA from Princeton University and an MFA from The New School. She teaches at The New School in New York City.

Ms. Cohen's website is http://www.aliceevecohen.com/

She can also be found at:
http://www.facebook.com/people/Alice-Eve-Cohen/1046733364 and on
twitter www.twitter.com/AliceEveCohen

Thank you to BookSparks PR and Penguin Books for the review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review. I was not compensated for my opinions.

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