THE YEAR MY MOTHER CAME BACK by Alice Eve CohenThe Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen
Published by Algonquin Books on March 31st 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Death, Grief, Bereavement, Family & Relationships, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Memoirs
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For the first time in decades I'm remembering Mom, all of her--the wonderful and terrible things about her that I've cast out of my thoughts for so long. I'm still struggling to prevent these memories from erupting from their subterranean depths. Trying to hold back the flood. I can't, not today. The levees break.

Thirty years after her death, Alice Eve Cohen's mother appears to her, seemingly in the flesh, and continues to do so during the hardest year Alice has had to face: the year her youngest daughter needs a harrowing surgery, her eldest daughter decides to reunite with her birth mother, and Alice herself receives a daunting diagnosis. As it turns out, it's entirely possible for the people we've lost to come back to us when we need them the most.

Although letting her mother back into her life is not an easy thing, Alice approaches it with humor, intelligence, and honesty. What she learns is that she must revisit her childhood and allow herself to be a daughter once more in order to take care of her own girls. Understanding and forgiving her mother's parenting transgressions leads her to accept her own and to realize that she doesn't have to be perfect to be a good mother.

Reading time 4 mins

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked this book up. Most memoirs have a yawn factor that this book was lacking. The Year My Mother Came Back was so close to home for me. Not that I am mourning my mother, but that I think every woman can relate to loosing her mother at some point in her life journey.

Alice shares the story of her mother coming back to her. She is long gone, literally, from this world. Her echos carry Alice through a very tough time in her life. Told in Alice’s POV, we learn about her present struggles and the reason for the rift between her and her mother. Her mother died at the age of 57 of a cerebral hemorrhage when Alice was 22 and fresh out of college. After surviving breast cancer and a double mastectomy when Alice hit puberty, Alice’s mother came home a shell of the woman she once was, and Alice and her mother drifted apart, as mothers and daughters do. At their last meeting, her mother said she was truly happy for the first time in a long time. Thirty one years later Alice finds herself talking to her mother through her own motherly difficulties. Her adopted daughter is finding her birth mother and going off to college, and her biological daughter is going into surgery to correct a birth defect. On top of all of this, Alice is diagnosed with breast cancer herself.

Memories flood into the space left empty for thirty years. I don’t resist. I want my mother with me. At this moment I don’t need to be a mother, I just want to be a daughter.

This book is filled with all the wonder that is being a mother, and all the pain of being a daughter. I couldn’t help but to reflect my own relationship to my mother, and the one I hope to have with my daughters. The struggle to be everything to your children is so real. This book might seem to be about loss, but it is much more a story of love. Throughout some of the story Alice is recounting how she tried to memorialize her mother’s life with a play called Oklahoma after she graduated college. The story flip flops through time as Alice tries to figure out why her mother is back. She mulls over what it means to be a woman, how her mother might have felt after her double mastectomy, and what it really means to have children. This book encompasses so much that touched me.

I honestly didn’t realize when I picked this book, that the author’s mother was dead. I didn’t know how swept up I was in their relationship until the last chapters, which left me a sobbing mess. Not that it is meant to draw that out of the reader. It is not meant to be a tear jerker, at least I don’t think so. I am not sorry I read this and it made me cry bit fat crocodile tears, I am just sorry that I can’t hug my mom right now and tell her all the things I need to after reflecting on our relationship. This story is timeless and thought-provoking. It is an in-depth look into the complexities of motherhood. This story is for every mother, and everyone that has a mother.

My Rating


About the Author

Alice Eve Cohen is a writer and solo theatre artist. Her new memoir, The Year My Mother Came Back, is published by Algonquin Books, March 31, 2015. Winner of Elle’s Magazine Grand Prize for Nonfiction, Oprah Magazine’s 25 Best Books of Summer, and Salon’s Best Books of the Year for her memoir, “What I Thought I Knew” (Penguin). She has written for Nickelodeon, CTW, and CBS, and has toured her solo shows nationally and internationally. Alice has received fellowships and grants from the NYS Council on the Arts and the NEA. She graduated from Princeton University and got her MFA from The New School. Alice teaches at The New School and lives with her family in New York City. She is currently working on a novel.

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