THE HOUSE ON BEARTOWN ROAD by Elizabeth Cohen
Kirkus Star

THE HOUSE ON BEARTOWN ROAD

A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting

KIRKUS REVIEW

Lyrical, gripping tale of the year Cohen's life went to hell.

One minute she was living an idyll, lazing through her days as a rural-upstate New York reporter and nights in a secluded farmhouse with a loving husband and infant daughter; the next, her Alzheimer's-afflicted father had moved in, her husband had moved across the country to shack up with an 18-year-old, and winter buried the house in snow. Cohen and her youthful husband had been a Manhattan couple with an active social life. After the move to Beartown Road and Dad's appearance, her city sophistication was entirely irrelevant in the endless battle to keep her father and daughter fed, dry, and safe, to get through the winter without freezing to death (apparently a surprisingly easy thing to do in a civilized North American town), neglecting her family, or losing her job. Cohen takes what could be a self-indulgent sob story and turns it into the stuff of high adventure. When she lies to her father about the eldercare group he attends, telling him he is the group's teacher, the reader prays the fiction will hold so that she can go to work secure in the knowledge that he won’t accidentally burn the house down while smoking unattended. When neighbors plow her driveway after big snowfalls, we’re swept with gratitude for the author’s sake. Cohen frames the whole of her messy, absorbing year in the framework of how we learn and forget. As her daughter gains words, her father loses them. As her daughter acquires motor skills, her father stumbles. As she describes the waxing of her daughter's personality and the waning of her father's, the fact he cannot remember her name or learn her daughter's, Cohen manages never to resort to sentimentality.

The adventure and peril of everyday living captured in language that's light, beautiful, and razor-sharp.

Pub Date: April 8th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-50727-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2003