Jean's Reviews > The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting

The House on Beartown Road by Elizabeth Cohen
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Oct 29, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: aging-death-disease, relationship-parent-child, memoir-female

Author Elizabeth Cohen mines a remarkable trove of material in this wonderful memoir. The juxtaposition of herself at 40, with her newborn child, and her 80 year old Alzheimer’s ravished father – all living together in a drafty old house in upstate New York, and freshly abandoned by Cohen’s husband – could be tragic, but it’s not.

Instead, she brings forward the bittersweet joy of seeing her baby’s mind load up with new connections and words as her father sheds his. Also, of the string of Alzheimer’s themed books I’ve recently read, this one best captures an Alzheimer’s patient’s capricious and sometimes beautiful paraphrasing, misstating, and invention of words and memories. Cohen says she wrote the book determined to keep “a sharp orange flare of Daddy” alive in her own daughter’s memories, for Cohen knows experiences from a child’s baby and toddlerhood rarely last in memory.

The author gave her daughter, and all who read this book, a fine written account of the grandfather "who built a fire to keep her warm when she was sick; who said 'Hi there, little guy,' every time she entered a room. Who loved her so completely, although he never learned her name.” But additionally, this book is about what matters and what Cohen learned from her own growing up, late marriage, parenthood, and art.
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02/15/2016 marked as: read

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