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What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,807 ratings  ·  352 reviews
A personal and medical odyssey beyond anything most women would believe possible

At age forty-four, Alice Eve Cohen was happy for the first time in years. After a difficult divorce, she was engaged to an inspiring man, joyfully raising her adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming. Alice tells her fiancé that she's never been happier. And then the stomach pains begin....more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published July 9th 2009 by Viking Adult (first published April 4th 2009)
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So you’re 44 years old and this is what you know: your life is looking pretty darn good, at long last. You’re getting married in a few months to an all-around great guy, your adopted daughter is thriving, your career is more and more satisfying. Except or this large, hard lump in your abdomen, things are really looking up.

But that lump does not go away. In fact, it gets bigger. You are anemic, depressed, and more than a little worried about cancer, since you’re a DES daughter. Your gynecologist...more
Vivek Tejuja
So when I laid my hands on “What I Thought I Knew” (actually it was sent to me as I wanted a review copy), I read the synopsis and thought to myself: How different could this memoir be from the others that I have read? Each memoir consists of the same ingredients anyway (as though writers dish recipes out – freshly baked!), don’t they? I am glad that I was mistaken and proved wrong.

When I started reading the book, to be very honest I could not put it down and I am not just saying this because I...more
Esme Pie
I would give the contents of this book a '5' rating, but the actual writing knocks it down to a '3.' The author is a performance artist and the whole book reads like it would be much better as a performance piece. The book is structured with an arc from pregnancy to wedding with lists of things she "knows" along the way. To me, it seemed the whole book could have been tightened into a longish magazine article, and the author would have benefitted greatly from an editor who knew how to write dial...more
Here’s what she thought she knew:
That she was in love with her soul mate.
That she had a beautiful adopted daughter.
At 44 she had finally enabled her dream life style and financial situation.
It was medically impossible for her to get pregnant.

Only to discover during a medical crisis that she was indeed six months pregnant. Due to her age and pre-natal neglect, her pregnancy is high risk, and she is grossly under insured. The doctors tell her with certainty that her baby will be born with one def...more
The story of a woman who unexpectedly becomes in her 40's, and doesn't find out until she is 6 months along. I think a lot of the drama in the book is sort of lost on me, as I had my own terrifying pregnancy nightmare where I lost the baby at 6 months. It just didn't make the kind of impact on me that it might have made on someone who hadn't had experiences similar to mine or the author's. I wasn't a huge fan of her style of writing - at one point in the book she said that she had lost of her se...more
Mary (BookHounds)

I adored this book! Once I started reading What I Thought I Knew, I couldn't put it down. This is one memoir that will stick with you and you will want to read about the next chapter of Alice Eve Cohen's life. I have just found out that she is working on another memoir so I can find out what happened next. Normally, memoirs are just one story, but this one left me wanting a bit more. I become so wrapped up in the author's life that I can't wait to find out how everything turned...more
Apr 14, 2010 Lauren rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Krista
Recommended to Lauren by: Jane
I really enjoyed this book and was barely able to put it down (it's also quite short, making it an easy read). It is well-written and brutally honest in a way that endeared the author to me. But, I can't lie: this book terrified me!! The entire time Alice was pregnant I just sat there wondering what I would do and how I would react and it honestly made me panic, which either means Alice Cohen is a great writer or I have some psychological problems (probably a bit of both). And, probably due to m...more
Author, Alice Eve Cohen met her second husband, Michael at a conference. Michael is ten years Alice’s junior. Alice already had a daughter named Julia when she and Michael met. Things were looking up for Alice, when she received the biggest shock of her life…she is pregnant!

What I Thought I Knew is author, Alice Eve Cohen’s memoir into her life as a mother, wife and writer. I really liked this book more than I thought I would. I say this because memoirs are not typically my first book of choice....more
44 year old Alice was sick. Months of tests and doctor's exams left her with a portfolio of diagnosis--early menopause, a bladder disorder, middle age loss of muscle tone, a malformed reproductive system because of her mother's use of DES, sore breasts from wearing underwire bras, anemia, depression, and a large lump in her lower abdomen. Finally a new doctor sends her to the hospital for an emergency CAT scan and the real problem is revealed--Alice is 6 months pregnant (despite having an intern...more
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Jackie says:

44 year old Alice was sick. Months of tests and doctor's exams left her with a portfolio of diagnosis--early menopause, a bladder disorder, middle age loss of muscle tone, a malformed reproductive system because of her mother's use of DES, sore breasts from wearing underwire bras, anemia, depression, and a large lump in her lower abdomen. Finally a new doctor sends her to the hospital for an emergency CAT scan and the real problem is revealed--Alice is 6 months pregnant (despite havi...more
Kelly Collins
This was a quick read (started & finished in one day, even with a toddler running around). It reminded me very much of my brother & sister-in-law's experience with an OB who made some pretty serious errors and did not diagnose my nephew's life threatening disabilities until my SIL was well into her third trimester. We were all grateful to have their son in our lives for the 12 short days he lived, but the idea of a wrongful life suit certainly has entered my thoughts over these last four...more
Although I only gave the book three starts - it was because four stars means I really liked it, and that's not the words I would use to describe reading this book. If it were stars for "I really appreciated this book" then it would be four stars. I love how Cohen is simply frank about a very difficult journey - one that makes her questions what she believes, what she wants, and what she will do. There is no debating of anything here, no telling us what we should do, just Cohen relating her exper...more
Linette Blaszak
This book was completely different then I thought it would be. I thought it was about someone similar to myself with 2 kids, this was not the case. Never being depressed myself it was hard for me to read about her trials and difficulties but I empathized with her none the less. I hope to never be in that place mentally. I was happy with the ending!
I couldn't put this book down. A compelling, honest, very well-written account of how one woman is forced to re-imagine her life when everything that can go wrong with her health does. Surprisingly funny at times, with a spot-on voice. I don't always love memoirs, but this one was a delight.
Absolutely mesmerizing story. Couldn't put it down.
Alice Eve Cohen’s memoir is honest, deeply moving, and at times humorous. At age 44, Alice is happy with the way her life is going. Divorced, she has found Mr. Right and is headed down the path to marriage. Her adopted daughter is thriving, and her career as a storyteller and performer is flourishing. What more could she want? She was settled into the life she wanted when suddenly she started experiencing mysterious symptoms. After a visit to her gynecologist, the doctor told her she was going t...more
Evanston Public  Library
After a difficult divorce, playwright and performing artist Ann Eve Cohen is finally happy, caring for her eight year old adopted daughter and in a secure, committed relationship. Told at a young age that she would be unable to have children, she finds herself at the age of 44 shocked to find out that she is six months pregnant. With no prenatal care and after years of taking synthetic hormones, her pregnancy is a minefield: "A woman with no prenatal care for twenty-six weeks is a lousy insuranc...more
4.5 stars

This was such an open, honest read for me. Actually it was more than a read, it was like sitting with a best friend and sharing your darkest thoughts and fears, things you don't usually tell others for fear of being judged. I found Alice Eve Cohen's candidness and amusing sarcasm refreshingly honest, it was an intimate look at thoughts and feelings not often voiced, in circumstances one would hope never to find themselves in.

I found it very easy to identify with the author having had m...more
Jean Godwin Carroll
Alice has long since reconciled with her infertility. Although she is recently divorced, she is planning to marry her boyfriend who loves her 9-year old adopted daughter as much as she does. At the age of 44, she is finally beginning to feel happiness as she plans her wedding. However, she begins to suffer strange abdominal symptoms from an illness her doctor cannot seem to diagnose. Although the doctor tells her to the contrary, she begins to suspect she is pregnant. However, the pregnancy test...more
this is an amazingly intense memoir. when cohen was thirty years old & married to her first husband, she was having trouble conceiving. eventually she saw a doctor, who found that she had a bifurcated uterus & a serious hormone imbalance that had essentially plunged her into early menopause. she was prescribed estrogen to address the hormone issue, but she was told that she would never be able to get pregnant, & that if she did, she would never be able to carry a fetus to term. she &...more
My Synopsis:

In this startlingly candid memoir, Alice Even Cohen shares her personal journey as a 44 year old "infertile" pregnant woman. From the medical professionals who couldn't figure out what was wrong with her (she was SIX MONTHS into her pregnancy before it was finally discovered that she was pregnant!), to her emotional struggle of whether or not she wanted to have the baby, Ms. Cohen's memoir is deeply touching and fast-paced.

My Thoughts:

I loved this memoir. I am completely shocked and...more
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen is a harrowing memoir of what happens when everything goes wrong in a pregnancy.

Alice has known since she was 30 that she was infertile. She had probably always suspected it as she's a DES daughter (her mother took DES, an anti-miscarriage drug, which was later found to cause birth defects, primarily in the reproductive arena of the baby girls.) But while married to her first husband, they wanted to have children, and she was told definitively there was n...more
Terrifying, my worst nightmare come true for someone else. Also beautifully written and completely compelling. Imagine going in for a CAT scan of your tumor and finding out you're actually six months pregnant. Your gynecologist told you you had early onset of menopause. You'd always believed you were infertile. You're also forty-five-years-old, have been drinking and taking "horse estrogen" for the entire pregnancy and quite quickly you learn the baby may or may not be a hermaphordite. Time for...more
The story is compelling, the writing style so-so. The author is a solo performer, and in many parts this reads to me like a spoken word piece. It's very straightforward, and while she lists very clearly how she's feeling throughout the book, she doesn't spend much time with long descriptions, or analyzing those feelings.
And yet parts of it were almost poetic - written in lists, sentences that aren't sentences, etc.
None of that bothered me - it was just different. I think my preference is for s...more
Pretty thought provoking book by someone about as different from me as could she confronted the unexpected news that at age 44 she was expecting, and all the issues that it brought up. She has a great writing style. Maybe I am drawn to Jewish writers and their sense of humor and way of thinking (like AJ Jacobs...)
The details of this story/life are remarkable and I admire Cohen's courage to talk about the difficult decisions she made. I was mesmerized, actually, and enjoyed reading this book quickly. It's not a story that invited me in or helped me understand life better. Instead, it worked, for me, as story of one woman's creativity and how she handles her fertility, sense and actuality of motherhood, depression, and art. The story doesn't lay claim to any universals, and I respect that, yet it makes me...more
Joan Dwoskin
Such a great read! Funny and sad and emotional - I cried like a baby at the end because I grew to love her and her unusual family and to appreciate the tough choices she had to make.
While I did not share some of the political/ moral philosophies of this book, I was very excited to finally find a memoir addressing the disasters of diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Diethylstilbestrol is a highly toxic synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to pregnant women from 1938 until 1971 in the United States to prevent miscarriages. Some women were even prescribed this horrible drug as late as the mid-1980s in Latin America, Europe and Australia. Effects of DES exposure include vaginal, uterin...more
This is such a quick read. Don't read the cover just pick it up and read it. YOu won't be disappointed.
Ellen Keim
This book was interesting because of the extreme situations the author experienced, sort of like when we want to know all the details about a train wreck. It's hard to believe that a person could face all the things that were potentially disastrous about her pregnancy and unborn child without having a breakdown and it's to the author's credit that she is very honest about her sometimes very negative mental state. The fact that she and her family not only survive but thrive is a testament to the...more
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