2017-03-29 / Local News

Cherry Hill resident’s memoir is a love song to her departed mother


FAMILY: Husband Josh; children Yonah, 8, Akiva, 6, and Aryeh, 3, step-daughters Sima Ellie, 15, and Huvi, 14.

SYNAGOGUES: Cong. Sons of Israel & Young Israel


FAVORITE NON-FICTION BOOK: “Operation Instructions” by Anne Lamott


Cherry Hill resident Rea Bochner dreamed of writing books as captivating as the ones from her favorite authors—books that she returns to again and again. Yet the mother of three spent years allowing self-doubt to sabotage those deepest desires.

A creative and spiritual soul who has dabbled in music, writing and filmmaking, Bochner, 35, was in limbo, not knowing exactly what she was meant to write. Then everything changed nearly eight years ago. While living in her family’s beloved vacation home in Cape Cod, Bochner learned devastating news; her mother Debbi’s cancer, diagnosed shortly after she became pregnant with her first son, was untreatable.

“My mother called me and said, ‘They told me I’m terminal and I have six weeks to live and I’m coming back to the Cape’— basically to die,” she recalled. “We were already there and so, that day, I starting writing. I knew that I had to record what was happening. Over the next six weeks, I wrote every day until she passed away—about what was happening as it was happening and also filing through my memories of childhood, my relationship with her and how it evolved.”

One of Debbi’s dying requests was that her daughter cull those copious notes into an actual book. “The Cape House: A Memoir” is that story, chronicling an intense mother-daughter relationship shaped by addiction, recovery, spiritual awakening, and tragedy. The prose veers from hilarious to cuttingly sad, sometimes in the same paragraph. Sparing no details about her addiction to food and alcohol and path from disillusionment to belief, Bochner’s writing shows shades of influence from some of her heroes, including Anita Diamant, J.K Rowling, Stephen King and Anne Lamott.

Still, the book did not take shape overnight.

“I had these notes that were kind of sitting there for awhile,” said Bochner, a North Jersey native who moved with her family to Cherry Hill in 2010. “I started cobbling it into a book. I picked it up. I put it down. I was busy. I had a baby. So finally my husband was like ‘that was it, you need to finish.’ So I worked on it full-time last year and finally finished it.”

On Feb. 16, the day Debbi would have turned 63, Bochner officially released “The Cape House” on Amazon.com. The opening excerpt can be found on her website, reabochner.com. She is now making publicity rounds at local venues, including bookstores and synagogues. On the horizon, she will be reading at the Chabad Center in Medford June 15.

With her life literally turned into an open book, Bochner said she is often asked if it was difficult to write about the worst thing that ever happened to her. On the contrary, it was cathartic.

“I felt like I was talking to her while I was writing it,” she said. “It allowed me to take a step back, get a lot of clarity and perspective.”

She added that she also had no problem revealing her always-fraught relationship with food and alcohol. By age 14, she said, she was already over 200 pounds and unaware that food addiction was a real thing until she started going to a 12-step recovery group at 19.

Interestingly, her spiritual awakening is tied to her recovery. Noting that recovery often involves developing a relationship with a higher power, she found herself drawn to observant Judaism despite herself. But no spoilers here. It’s all in the book.

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