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

by Elizabeth Cohen

Vermillion, 2004. ISBN 0375507272.
Reviewed by Robin Edgar
Posted on 09/23/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Elders

Someone once pointed out to me that there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who are caregivers, those who know a caregiver, and those who need a caregiver. With that in mind, Elizabeth Cohen's book, The House on Beartown Road, is a "must read" for everyone.

Written in memoir form, the author describes her life, living in the warm glow of a loving husband and an infant daughter. Having just moved into a 150-year-old farmhouse in upstate New York, she had a decent job writing for a local newspaper. When her sister called to ask her to take care of their father, who had Alzheimer's disease, how could she say no?

Within a few weeks, the colorful mosaic of her cozy existence takes a few too many spins in the kaleidoscope of life, and everything goes out of kilter. She finds herself without a husband (he takes off with another woman), with a daughter who is relentlessly teething, and with a father who needs her constant attention, even though he does not remember that she is his daughter. Pile on several doses of upstate New York snowstorms, and you have the complete picture.

Having been a fulltime caregiver for my mother—during which time I struggled to raise three children, move into a new home, and deal with a crashing marriage—I could really relate to Cohen's story.

Cohen's inherent honesty and humor enable her to make it through each day and make her book a pleasure to read. Hopeful that she will survive, we rejoice with her when her father remembers things, laugh with her when she finds Cheerios in the mouths of all of her daughter's stuffed animals, and cry with her when the snow falls again and again and again. To add a little spice, there is the underlying mystery as to why her husband, Shane, left. Will he return? And, if he does, will she take him back?

The House on Beartown Road speaks for so many of us who have been there and done it as caregivers. It is also a story about family heroes, the caregivers, their friends and family, and, most of all, the ones facing the need to be cared for.

(You might also be interested in our
Austin Chapter Story Circle book discussion questions)

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