Friday, July 10, 2009

A motherhood memoir that blew me away

In my last blog post I spelled out my reservations about "female confessional journalism." I don't like writing that strikes me as oversharing without illumination, and it really bugs me when women are limited to sharing childish mommy stories.

But last night, while browsing, looking at new summer releases, I came across Alice Eve Cohen's memoir, What I Thought I Knew. I downloaded it to my Kindle, and once I started reading her story, I didn't want to put it down. She shares her experience of the chaos that took over her settled life at age 44 when, after experiencing health problems and told she was menopausal and infertile, she discovered that she was actually six months pregnant.

I don't want to reveal too much about what happens next, because a reader should experience the story unfolding page by page, as Alice is told new "certainties" that are dashed again and again. What I Thought I Knew is the perfect title for this memoir, and Alice writes out ever-evolving lists of her own feelings, what her doctors have told her about her condition, and her baby's prognosis.

Cohen breaks through any reservations I have about personal narrative. Once I started, I didn't want to put the book down, so I read it in one evening. What differentiates Cohen's writing for me is that she does not use distancing techniques of humor, irony, or snark. She is incredibly straightforward and pulls us into her experience, sharing her most intimate experiences in a way that illuminates the choice to enter motherhood, along with family dynamics, depression, the fallibility of the medical system, the value of community and professional support, and ultimately, the mystery of grace.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you no longer pretend to know something, you're no longer pretending.

3:19 PM  

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