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The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting
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The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  459 ratings  ·  87 reviews
In this beautiful book, Elizabeth Cohen gives us a true and moving portrait of the love and courage of a family.

Elizabeth, a member of the “sandwich generation”—people caught in the middle, simultaneously caring for their children and for their aging parents—is the mother of Ava and the daughter of Daddy, and responsible for both. Hers is the story of a woman’s struggle to
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Random House
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Loved this memoir of being caught in the 'sandwich generation'. The author has a new baby when her father who has Alzheimer's Disease comes to live with her. Her husband decides he cant handle it and moves out. She is in the country so has to handle all kinds of disasters. I love how her neighbors helped out. She doesn't think she is a strong person but she really is. Through the whole book I wondered why she didn't just put her father in a nursing home but she did the best she could and I'm sur ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This memoir caught my eye because of the consistently positive reviews. Although I’d merely skimmed them, all the stars made an impression and I proceeded to Amazon. When it arrived and I became aware of the content, however, I began to have second thoughts. Elizabeth Cohen is a journalist with impressive credentials, and here she presents a moving, honest account of her life as a single mom with a very young child while caring for her father in advancing stages of Alzheimer’s. Their living arra ...more
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 Alzhei
Diane Yannick
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The ending sentences of this memoir are absolute perfection. Elizabeth tells her whole story with courage, grit and poetry perfectly mixed together. As she cares for an aging parent and a young child, she never looks for sympathy from those around her or her readers. Instead, she intersperses moments of beauty in days that could have been pure drudgery. She accepts what is and isn’t with more humility than I could ever have mustered. Plus she has such gorgeous mastery of language; adding just th ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author has her first baby at the age of 40. She works full-time as a newspaper reporter, married to an artist. Everything is fine, but life gets complicated when her 80 year-old father, who has Alzheimer’s, comes to live with her. And then her husband runs off with -- get this -- a teenage girl. Now she has to care for a newborn and an Alzheimer’s patient all by herself. If she had shot her husband, there wouldn’t be a jury in the world who would’ve convicted her.
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, children of aging parents, anyone with a heart
The Family on Beartown Road is a beautiful, heartbreaking memoir of a staggeringly painful and difficult year in the life of a family. At the center of this family, holding it all together as she herself struggles not to fall apart, is the author, Elizabeth Cohen.

"The book begins with the following series of numbers: 0-40-80. These numbers represent the ages of the three main characters: Cohen's daughter Ava, herself, and her father, who has Alzheimer's disease:

I celebrated all my daughter's fi
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book to remember. It made me laugh and cry, all the best ingredients for a good book. Highly recommended.
Kathy Nickerson
I think this is my fourth reading of Beartown Road, and I loved it just as much this time. Such a beautiful journey about love, language, and family in all its challenges and victories. The devastation of Alzheimer's Disease is balanced by the beauty of a toddler discovering life. Such a brave story.

A disclaimer for my faith-based friends: the author does not write from a religious world-view, but many of the people in her life are obviously Christians and she presents them well.
Lori Amato
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful story of family.
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The House On Beartown Road is one of those quiet, unobtrusive books that are easily skipped on a bookstore shelf. Its author, Elizabeth Cohen, does not talk about extreme human experience like the Holocaust, child abuse, or rock ‘n roll. Cohen’s subject matter is much more modest — her year as a ‘sandwich’ adult, caught in the middle between simultaneously and singlehandedly caring for a baby daughter and an Alzheimer’s father, all while working full-time. We read of peeing and pooping accidents ...more
rhonda  granquist
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone
Struggling with a family member with Alzheimer's, this is s great read. Actually it's just a good read. The authors father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The author, Elizabeth Cohen, her husband and their new baby have bought an old home in the mountains somewhere in New York . They've moved from
New Mexico. Just as they had gotten settled Elizabeth's
Mother calls her and tells her she needs to
Come and pick
Her father. He's doing things that aren't normal
And she can't handle him
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just loved this beautiful memoir of a year spent as a single mom to a baby and a solo caretaker to a father with Alzheimer's. Most people would have just seen the drudgery of constant caretaking and trying to manage the basics of life, or been consumed by their bitterness. But this author turned ordinary life into poetry. ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chose this title because it was written by a local author, about our area, and it's a memoir, which I really enjoy. Read this in bigger gulps - I could empathize with her journey as a mother and about those cold, cold winters. ...more
Sep 24, 2018 added it
The author, Elizabeth (Beth) is in the sandwich generation: a 2 year old daughter &
her father, who has Alzheimer's, & lives with her. Her husband left her.
I enjoyed this book but I was so glad that I was not in her shoes. Maybe you are.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
The story here is very sweet and you grow to like the main characters. That being said, there is a lack of character development and nothing really happens in the book. Considering the plot line, maybe that’s the point?
Jun 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never heard the term "sandwich generation" but it seems apt for a person who is caring for both an infant and a Alzheimer's parent, simultaneously. Told in a way that almost anyone can enjoy, and you should. ...more
Rich Hasler
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have very complicated feelings about this book. Having experienced the pain of caring for parents with Alzheimer’s, it has been a pretty painful read. It is well done and beautiful. Yet, it brought back so many distressing memories. She has captured the feelings so well!

Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sweet memoir of raising a newborn at the same time as caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s.
Heather Banghart
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
A lesson on adapting or trying to....for we are all humans.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Heartwarming, funny, and sad.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, memoir, nonfiction
Peggy Schuster
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Well written but maybe the timing just wasn't right for me. ...more
Liz Hatcher
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone going through a crisis with Alzheimer's. A poignant and honest approach to this disease. ...more
Rebecca Wolin
I read the book because I live on Beartown Mountain Road - eh
Carina Wood
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
A 40 year old journalist finds herself caring for her 1 year old daughter and her Alzheimers father simultaneously. Particularly loved the spectrum of her changing perspective from beginning to end.
Cathy Hooper
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Beth is 40 with a daughter just under a year old, and a father who is 80 and they all live together in a house on Beartown Road. As the baby learns and grows and begins to speak, her father’s Alzheimer’s begins to take over his mind and health. This memoir tells the story of a family during a difficult season and does it beautifully.
Jackie St Hilaire
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You never stop hoping, you never know for sure.

One of the worst things about dementia is that one forgets the present but somehow one manages to bring past events to the surface without too much difficulty except that this is very repetitive.

If you have cared for a loved one with short term memory, it is very exhausting until you realize that this is as good as it gets. Because it's an uphill climb to the finish line once a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and Elizabeth come
Barbara Burd
Jul 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with aging parents or from the upstate NY area
I picked up this book at ALA because I recognized the setting on Beartown Road and the Binghamton area, having lived in the area for many years. Cohen presents a very true picture, sometimes lovely and sometimes terrible, of being a single mother responsible for the care of a baby and an aging father with Alzheimer's. The sweetest moments were the relationship between the baby and the father as their lives and intelligences intersect in the process of learning and forgetting. Cohen writes with a ...more
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Elizabeth Cohen is an Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh, where she serves as the fiction editor for the Saranac Review. Her memoir, The Family on Beartown Road (Random House, 2003), was a New York Times Notable Book, and her articles, stories, and poetry have appeared in SELF, MORE, Newsweek, People, New York Times Magazine, Salon, Tablet, and the Yale Review, among other publicat ...more

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