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The Family on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Love and Courage

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  78 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book

The Family on Beartown Road
is Elizabeth Cohen’s true and moving portrait of love and courage.

Elizabeth, a member of the “sandwich generation”—those caught in the middle, simultaneously caring for their children and for their aging parents—is the mother of baby Ava and the daughter of Daddy, and responsible for both. In this story full of ever
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 9th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published April 1st 2003)
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  391 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweet memoir of raising a newborn at the same time as caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! Heartwarming, funny, and sad.
Heather Banghart
A lesson on adapting or trying to....for we are all humans.
Carina Wood
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
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

This book shows a beautiful picture of the different stages of life. A forty years old taking care of her newborn daughter AVA and her eighty years old father in mid stages of Alzheimer disease.

I have so many favorite quotes from this book, but here is one at the very beginning of the book that is most memorable:
"I celebrated all my daughter's first word. Likewise, I had to mourn all my father's losses. There were numerous coincidences. She said "Mama" on the same day he first asked me who I wa
Tamara Murphy
A well written memoir -- both poignant and funny. The author is one of my favorite columnists from our hometown newspaper. While it didn't do much for my historical understanding of the place that raised me, it did remind me that I come from such a small place that I actually knew almost everyone Ms. Cohen referenced in this book.

Anyway, that's not the point of the book. Except it is -- the neighborliness of small town folk plays a major redemptive role in this story and is one of the attribute
Hazel McHaffie
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully told memoir of a bleak winter in North America when Elizabeth Cohen, a 40-year old newspaper columnist, was left alone to care for her baby daughter and her elderly father who has Alzheimer's. It captures the grit and determination she needed, the joy of small successes, and the triumph of love over adversity. It was recommended to me by someone working in the field of dementia care; I recommend it to anyone. None of us know when we might face problems within our families l ...more
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoyed The Glass Castle
Recommended to Martha by: Book Club Selection
Shelves: book-club, finished
I am almost done this this memoir and I have really enjoyed Ms. Cohen's voice and story-telling. It is hard to imagine the day to day struggles that she and so many go through everyday as caregivers to parents with Alzheimer's.

When I first started it, I was wary, thinking it was going to be a tear-jerker, and while I shed a tear here and there, she also made me laugh and think.

The way that she compares her daughter's accumulation of everyday skills to her father's daily losses is bittersweet and
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed and I cried and I read bits out loud to my family. I think this is a well written book, and I also admire how kind the author is to her subjects in her writing.

I didn't really identify with the author; I am long past being upset by an inability to remember nouns on command. And her understanding of genetics is poor enough that she refers to a "gene called chromosome 21".

But science isn't much of this book. If you want to read a kind, honest, and even humorous look into the life of some
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This is a wonderful touching memoir of the year when Elizabeth Cohen was 40 years old, her father 80 and her daughter 0. Stanford Cohen was a brilliant economist but now has Alzheimer's and he is passed from his wife to one daughter, then to the other, then all over again. Elizabeth's husband walked out on his family just before his father-in-law came to live with them. Elizabeth doesn't whine. She tells the ups and downs of her life in beautiful words that made me want to be a neighbor on Beart ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book everyone should read. How difficult for Elizabeth to suddenly be a single mother of a one year old, and care giver of her 80 year old father. One year old Ava, thirsty for knowledge and exploring everything, while the 80 year old can't remember who Elizabeth is or even who he is. Sometimes humorous,sometimes sad, there is a definite bond between these three people. Elizabeth Cohen gives the reader an understanding of what it means to care for a loved one with Alzheimer's. To say t ...more
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any one in the "Sandwich Generation"
Elizabeth Cohen is forty and raising her infant daughter Ava when her father, Sanford Cohen, a noted economics professor and author, comes to live with her. He is eighty, and in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's Disease. This a touching memoir which sugar coats nothing. For a reader, such as myself, who has just reached sixty, and who has dealt with the aging and death of his own parents, and is now trying to be supportive to his in-laws who are falling into that aging pattern, it touched some tende ...more
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm as fascinated as the author by the way her daughter seems to pick up the pieces of language that the author's father is dropping. Her father has come to live with her because her mother can no longer deal with his progressing Alzheimer's disease. Beth is 40, her father is 80 and her daughter is 0 at the beginning of the book. She says she journals at night until she makes her worries and frustrations beautiful. Cohen's use of language is almost poetic. Her father's descriptions of objects wh ...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