cover image Falling: A Daughter, a Father, and a Journey Back

Falling: A Daughter, a Father, and a Journey Back

Elisha Cooper. Pantheon, $23.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-101-87123-2

Children’s book author Cooper (Train) takes the grimmest of subject matters—learning that your young daughter has cancer—and turns it into a poignant but never melodramatic musing on parenting, love, and risks in this slim memoir that packs a mighty punch. The lives of Cooper and his wife, Elise, suddenly shift into warp speed when Cooper feels a lump on four-year-old Zoë’s side when she’s sitting on his lap during a Cubs game. It’s a pediatric kidney cancer called Wilms’s tumor, a so-called “good cancer.” But after surgery, the doctors tell Cooper and Elise that Zoë’s is stage three. Twenty-two weeks of chemo follow, during which the stoic Zoë bonds with nurses, stuffed tiger clutched in her hand, while Cooper spins in a silent rage that bursts forth at inopportune moments. Cooper, Elise, Zoë, and youngest daughter Mia move from Chicago to New York and develop a ritual around Zoë, now in kindergarten, going for treatment every Friday. Cooper tells of the blanket of normalcy that descends, but still, “every week has a Friday.” Zoë is on the mend, and post-treatment scans show no recurrence, yet Cooper still struggles to reconcile the fierce love he feels for his daughter, his need to protect her, and the powerlessness he feels in the face of cancer. This tale of fatherly devotion is also a story of discovering what it means to survive in the face of the unknowable. [em](June) [/em]