The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen
Algonquin Books, 2015
In this finely wrought memoir, Cohen (What I Thought I Knew) handles nearly overwhelming events. Her adopted-at-birth daughter, now 18, finally reconnects with her birth mother. Cohen’s biological daughter, whose conception was a surprise because of Cohen’s diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer and the consequent hormone treatments, has to undergo a difficult leg-lengthening surgery at age eight to correct a birth defect that Cohen feels responsible for causing. Through this prism, Cohen remembers her own mother, Louise, who passed away 30 years prior. Cohen takes readers on a journey through her immediate travails, as well as through her troubled childhood dealing with a mother whose own battle with cancer transformed her emotionally and physically. Cohen’s mother was a trailblazing champion of civil rights, an early feminist who bemoaned the trappings of a stay-at-home motherhood and fought for her intellectual life. Cohen ultimately gets closure with her mother, who gives her advice beyond the grave about how to be a better mother, how to face cancer, and how, ultimately, to be a daughter who finally finds peace with the complex woman who had more of an impact on her life than she ever realized.