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.
To be honest before I started reading this book, I was prepared not to like it. I had read previous reviews where the readers had felt uncomfortable due to moral decisions made by the author throughout the book. Since I normally shared those same views, I was worried that I was going to be in for a difficult read. However I found myself fascinated with Cohen's account and couldn't stop turning pages.
I'm not a mom yet so I can't fully understand everything that Cohen was going through. However I felt like I could understand why she had her gut reactions. If you had been told all your life that you could never have children and that circumstances that happened before you were born caused you to be that way and then all your doctors that you were seeing confirmed that there was no way that you could be pregnant, what would your first thought be when you found out you were six months pregnant? I probably would have freaked out too. Then on top of that, there was going to be a chance that your baby was going to have a deformity due to the drugs that you were taking to take care of yourself because everyone else that you trusted told you that there was no way that you were going to be pregnant.
Throughout the book, I felt that Cohen loved daughter Julia and eventually Eliana very much. There's a lot that had to happen for her to get to that point however. From quite a bit of soul searching to potentially sacrificing everything, Cohen pretty much goes through hell and back throughout this book. The ending takes a while, not because it's a long book, but because throughout the book the reader doesn't know how it's all eventually going to end. For me, it wasn't a difficult read. In fact, I found the entire situation of what could have happened to Cohen's baby quite interesting and an entire book could (if not already) could be written about that.
Overall this was a really moving memoir and I'm very glad that I got the chance to read it. Even if you don't agree with all of Cohen's decisions, I feel that that is a very good book to read and it's a great discussion talker. The writing is very easy to read as the narrative flows very smoothly throughout the book. Also the book isn't very long so it can be easily read in a short amount of time. Whatever your previous opinions may be before reading this book, it's still an interesting read and one you'll think about long after.
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen is published by Penguin (2010)
This review copy was provided for a book tour with Booksparks PR
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