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Knowing Jesse: A Mother's Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday Bliss
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Knowing Jesse: A Mother's Story of Grief, Grace, and Everyday Bliss

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  282 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Jesse Cooper was an honor-roll student who loved to windsurf and write poetry. He also had severe cerebral palsy and was quadriplegic, unable to speak, and wracked by seizures. He died suddenly at age seventeen.

In fiercely honest, surprisingly funny, and sometimes heartbreaking prose, Jesse’s mother, Marianne Leone, chronicles her transformation by the remarkable life and
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  282 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not only do I cherish this beautiful story, I spent 11 years with jesse and his entire family. He was my teacher of unconditional love,facing fear and embracing myself. I carry part of his life and spirit in my heart, in my soul forever. My love to his family
Diana Renn
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book gave new meaning to the word "gripping." I'll preface this by saying it's the first book I read on an e-reader; I just bought a nook. I'd already heard raves about Marianne Leone's moving tribute to her late son Jesse Cooper, what it's like to raise a child with cerebral palsy, and her efforts to advocate for his education in the public schools. I'd also heard she was a lovely writer. I looked at some free sample pages to try out my new nook, and I immediately bought the book. I ...more
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville. I was interested partially because of my connection with people with serious disabilities, including someone in my family, and partially because I'm a big fan of Jesse's dad, the actor Chris Cooper. And having read this book, I'm now a big admirer of his mom, the author. I certainly related to her stories of frustration with medical professionals, school professionals, and general ignorant people in the world. Her stories and descriptions and ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Marianne Leone's son, Jesse, is born early and has a brain bleed that results in cerebral palsy. She tells her story through stories--little glimpses into her life as the mother of a severely disabled child, the struggles, the lessons, etc. The book is sprinkled with photos and Jesse's poetry, which makes the book and the stories even more real. It does not, however, EVER read as a pity party. I was nervous when I started this book, assuming I'd spend my time reading it bawling. But I didn't cry ...more
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I gave this book four stars because I was moved by the story of little Jesse Cooper so much that it was hard to put it down. My heart is soft for those who have to rely on others to help them through life. And I get so angry when people try to treat them as if they're stupid or don't comprehend love, emotions, good, or bad. The story took off for me right at the beginning and kept me going till the very end.

Her story is powerful and compelling and I'm glad that Jesse was on this earth for as
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents, Disabled people
Fierce advocate of a mom recalls the life and death of her disabled son. The respect and passion of the author for her son is tangible, and the writing is engaging as it weaves from grief to memories and back. Written in the voice of a mother, Jesse's voice comes through loud and clear in his own poetry as well as her stories. Honest and human, it challenges the injustices of disability and oppression as it recalls mistakes as well as advocacy victories.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All parents/caregivers of children with special and medical needs
Recommended to Lindsay by: MA Federation for Children with Special Needs
Marianne Leone is a firecracker. I hadn't really known her as an actress, nor did I know her husband, Chris Cooper. She was the keynote speaker at a conference that I attended earlier this year and I was struck by her raw emotions and the intense love she has for her son, Jesse. Her stories are heartbreaking, some hilarious, all very real and very easy to imagine myself in. A mother's love, a mother's grief, and the fight for equality for children with special needs.
Neionie Pulido
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book mad me laugh, smile cry and lament with the author. It was so beautiful to see motherhood though the eyes of Mrs. Leone. It inspired me to become a special education teacher to do better for the other Jesses out there
Megan Daily-Scott
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I never read the flap or the cover on books I'm going to read and it was a wacky surprise when I did afterwards, there are recommendations from Tom Perotta, Andre Dubus II, Denis Leary... Not run of the mill for this type of book. Jesses' dad is Chris Cooper, and that's not plastered all over the outside either which is a relief. I thought I wasn't going to be able to stand reading this but I ended up riveted by it, the author really put herself out there without trying to gloss over anything, ...more
Kelly Kittel
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lovely, well-written story. Stumbled upon this when I heard Marianne read from Knitting Yarns in Duxbury, MA with Ann Hood, had no idea who she was (actress, The Sopranos, married to actor Chris Cooper) but loved her story and persona, looked her up and found this. Thank you for letting us know your son, Marianne. I loved your sense of humor. "I am aware that I sound like a refrigerator magnet." This beautiful book cuts to the heart of what it means to be a mom, a loving, warrior mom, and cuts ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I give Thanks Marianne Leone for writing this memoir about her beautiful , creative and intelligent son. I found her story close to heart as I, myself, is living CP and work with children with disabilities who are kinda like Jesse non-verbal.
Jane Deaux
See, this is why I love WRBH. I would never think to read this book on my own, but because it's on WRBH, I'm listening to it and enjoying it so much. It's really nice to hear stories and perspectives I'd never think to search out.
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Read my lengthy review here:
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I met Jesse and have an abiding respect for his parents. Marianne Leone is someone I would write like if I had ferocious compassion and grace.
I can't say enough about this book. It is one of the most honest books I have read in quite some time. This one I can honestly recommend for parents who struggle with providing their children with the best education possible in spite of their limitations.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
A friend gave this to me as a going away gift when I moved from my Special Education teaching job, saying that because of the impact I had on the students I worked with and the passion I had in doing so, she knew I would appreciate the fervor and intensity this mother had in advocating for her son. And she was right...I have so much respect for the mother in this memoir. Her son had cerebral palsy, and they were raising him in a time when advocacy for special needs was minimal and lacking.

Jane Humen
Rather than being a pity party, this memoir encourages the exact opposite - that we start seeing disabled people as the human beings they are. As a person with cerebral palsy, I was initially hesitant in picking up this book, wary that it might eventually give way to what I dread - an able-bodied person talking about disability without actually having a clue about its intricacies, encouraging people to pity us in the process.

I was pleasantly surprised that this book defied my fears and instead
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first heard about this book when I read Yes Please! by Amy Poehler. In Poehler's book she apologizes for something she did during a comedy sketch that she had regretted. She mentioned that Marianne Leone and Chris Cooper had contacted her about the sketch and how that had affected her. I wanted to know more about Chris and Marianne and Jesse, their son.

I listened to this book on audio and it was read by Marianne Leone. I love when author's read their own works! Hearing in her own voice about
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Wow! What a roller coaster this family went on. I read this book because I am working on my SPED credentials for my local school district and I have to say that what the Coopers went through is absolutely ridiculous. It is terribly sad that it took legal action for them to get the results that they needed, which were NOT demanding in the least. I feel the better for having read this book and getting to know Jesse through his mother's eyes.
Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a heartbreakingly good book, sad yes, but good. A co-worker gave me this book, she worked with this family and has a chapter named after her. This is a mother's story about loving her son, who has cerebral palsy, through life and death. If you are a mother, you will probably relate to her unconditional love she had for her son and how much his life changed hers.
Jamie Schoffman
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great read here. A poignant and touching memoir of a child living with cerebral palsy, and the love that he inspired in his parents, his teachers, his friends, and anyone that ever met him. Keep a box of tissue will need it.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most inspiring book I have ever read....Marianne Leone's dedication to getting Jesse the education he was entitled to makes me want to fight harder for my girlie and also appreciate the times I have with her because you never know what tomorrow may bring....
May 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Once I could get past that the parents were "famous" (actors living in New York), I could appreciate the love the mother had for her son with CP and how she fought for his care.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Amazing story of love and the efforts of Jesse's family to help him fight a courageous battle to escape the limitations of his own body, and the discovery of who actually gains more in the end?
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A portrait of a mother as she cares for and learns from her disabled son. An amazingly powerful woman.
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Marianne Leone is brilliant and an amazing writer. Her story is inspiring.
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Touching story of a mother's love for her child and the distance she will go to protect her child while allowing them to grow and experience the world.
Casey Button
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I can relate to Marianne as a mother to a little boy with CP. I laughed, cried and could not put the book down.
Nicole Truly
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Funny, heart wrenching, inspiring. A great read for anyone.
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Marianne Leone is an actress, screenwriter and essayist. She had a recurring role on HBO's "Sopranos" as Joanne Moltisanti, Christopher's (Michael Imperioli's) mother. She has also appeared in films by John Sayles, Nancy Savoca and Martin Scorsese. Her essays and op ed pieces on a variety of topics have appeared in the Boston Globe. She is married to Chris Cooper, an academy-award winning actor ...more