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When She Comes Back

Ronit Plank (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and podcaster whose work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, Writer’s Digest, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among others. When She Comes Back, her memoir about the loss of her mother to the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and their eventual reconciliation, is her first book.

Buy the When She Comes Back audiobook, narrated by her, here. 
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Buy the When She Comes Back Ebook here. 
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Ronit was six years old when her mother left her and her four-year-old sister for India to follow a guru. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose commune was responsible for the largest biological attack on U.S. soil, preached that children were hindrances and encouraged sterilizations among his followers. Luckily Ronit's father, who'd left the family the previous year, stepped up and brought the girls to live with him first in Newark, New Jersey, and later in Flushing, Queens. On the surface, his nurturing was the balm Ronit sought, but she soon paid a second emotional price, taking on the role of partner and confidant to him, and substitute mother to her sister. By the end of her childhood, Ronit would discover she had lost her mother and the close and trusting relationship she once had with her father. Though they have now reconciled, for years she grappled with the toll her mother's leaving took, measuring her self-worth and capacity for love by that absence.

When She Comes Back is the story of a family trying to find itself, grownups who don't know how to be adults, and what happens when the person your life revolves around can't stay. It's also a story of resilience and reconciliation, how rejection by the most important person in Ronit's life ultimately led to an unflagging commitment to, and love for her own children.

What inspired When She Comes Back?
I was writing fiction for a few years when memories of growing up began working their way into my short stories. Soon, I began writing what I came to understand were memoir essays and getting them published. I never thought I'd write a memoir; it wasn't even a genre I was all that familiar with. But, I had more and more to say, and for my last year in my MFA program at Pacific University, I completed the first draft of what would eventually be When She Comes Back.
What are your individual core values?

I strive for these: kindness, respect, and integrity in my words and actions, as well as making sure I do what I can to make others feel seen, heard and included.

How does your book reflect your core values?

When I was writing When She Comes Back, I wanted to be sure that I conveyed how dependent children are on the adults around them, and how powerful their caregivers are in their lives. Parents can't be perfect, and will make mistakes to be sure, but communication, respect and a solid foundational attachment with their children will help fortify them. Conversely, when those qualities are absent, children will feel it and have a more difficult time finding and maintaining healthy and positive relationships. At the same time, I wanted to be sure that I portrayed the adults in the book with specificity and allowed them to be three dimensional. This isn't a story about good and bad people; it's a story about what happens to people that changes them, and the ripple effect of it all.

How do your friends describe you?


What's a book you recommend?

One of my all-time favorites is All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. It's gorgeous and heartbreaking.

What's your favorite review?

"Oh, how I loved this heartbreaking, transfixing coming of age tale! A pitch-perfect, novelistic depiction of a childhood cut short by instability and loss, When She Comes Back reminded me of Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle. But Plank's voice is purely her own, laced with humor and underpinned by deep, hard-won wisdom and self-knowledge. I loved it and you will, too."

Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year


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