How do you go about caregiving for an ill and elderly parent with a lifelong history of abuse and control, intertwined with expressions of intense love and adoration? How do you reconcile the resulting ambivalence, fear, and anger? Welcome to Wherever We Are
is a meditation on what we hold onto, what we let go of, how we remember others and ultimately how we’re remembered. Deborah Cohan shares her story of caring for her father, a man who was simultaneously loud, gentle, loving and cruel and whose brilliant career as an advertising executive included creating slogans like “Hey, how ‘bout a nice Hawaiian punch?” Wrestling with emotional extremes that characterize abusive relationships, Cohan shows how she navigated life with a man who was at once generous and affectionate, creating magical coat pockets filled with chocolate kisses when she was a little girl, yet who was also prone to searing, vicious remarks like “You’d make my life easier if you’d commit suicide.”
In this gripping memoir, Cohan tells her unique personal story while also weaving in her expertise as a sociologist and domestic abuse counselor to address broader questions related to marriage, violence, divorce, only children, intimacy and loss. A story most of us can relate to as we reckon with past and future choices against the backdrop of complicated family dynamics, Welcome to Wherever We Are
is about how we might come to live our own lives better amidst unpredictable changes through grief and healing.Questions for Discussion
“With scrupulous honesty, and what Deborah so beautifully calls “tender curiosity,” this is a journey toward reconciliation with the ambivalence she felt towards an emotionally abusive father. She winds up with love. Her memoir is an inspiration.”
— Abigail Thomas
“Cohan’s beautifully-nuanced book is an important addition to a distinctly American strain of memoir that seeks to fully explore family dynamics with all of its complications, glories, travails, and facing of mortality. This is a slice of life that is both wide and deep.”
— Sue William Silverman
“Welcome to Wherever We Are is a memoir of a difficult family, a relationship between a father and a daughter. It involves abuse, dislike, love and a great deal of caring. It is a memoir, but one guided by the sociological lens of writer Deborah Cohan. She offers us a personal story set in the context of complicated family relationships in contemporary American society.”
— Barbara J. Risman
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
— Real Simple
"Love the sinner, hate the sin: thus, unfurls Cohan's memoir. Fractional love and uncomfortable rage toward her father blend with her longing for his abusive behavior to disappear and leave only the often extraordinary father. Cohan's crystalline honest prose brings the reader inside the dilemma of caring for an aging parent who brought her torment laced with love and magic--what is it like to adore, fear, and protect yourself from the father you feared and cherished?"
— Randy Susan Meyers
"Deborah Cohan has written a brave and beautiful memoir….not ‘beautiful’ in the sense of pretty or lovely or sugarcoated in any way. Beautifully written, yes, but also beautiful in its raw, graphic honesty—that is, in the sense that truth is beauty. There is much hard-won wisdom in these pages--wisdom gleaned from Cohan’s years of caregiving for an abusive parent--and it will benefit those who find themselves navigating that rocky terrain. But this is also a story about life and death, love and loss, and the complicated nature of family and relationship. Which makes Welcome to Wherever We Are a universal story, one with wisdom for us all."
— Abby Seixas
— Business News Daily
— The Society Pages
— Inside Higher Education
— She Reads
— Inside Higher Education
— Active for Life (Mason County, MI)
— Authority Magazine
"Cohan tells her personal journey while weaving in her expertise as a sociologist and domestic abuse counselor to address broader questions related to marriage, violence, divorce, only children, intimacy and loss. Most people deal with at least one of these issues. The book explores how people could live better amidst unpredictable changes through grief and healing."
— Cleveland Jewish News
"In this engrossing memoir, sociologist Deborah Cohan candidly describes her struggle caring for her aging father, who, as she was growing up, was at once kind and cruel. Undoubtedly, readers will be able to relate to Cohan’s explorations into the complexities of family, evolving relationships, and complicated emotions."
— Ms. Magazine
— Atlanta Journal Constitution
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Cohan’s father was a story of opposites – abusive and controlling and also at times gentle and loving. When he gets sick and she must take care of him, she’s unsure how to manage her emotions. She must let go of her anger in order to help her father and to come to terms with her own grief to begin to heal."
— She Reads
"Welcome to Wherever We Are is a brave memoir that sheds light on the challenges of caring for an abusive parent. This volume is bound to offer solace and support to those in similar situations. Deborah J. Cohan’s honesty and compassion make this a unique and valuable memoir for anyone who has survived abuse by a parent and struggles to make sense of the conflicting feelings of love and responsibility as well as anger and resentment toward their abuser."
— Ms. Magazine
— Chicago Tribune
"This memoir of caretaking unspools so many of the complicated emotions wrapped up in helping a parent as they die. Writing about taking care of her father, Deborah J. Cohan details the realities of what it means to get sick and the toll it takes on the people around the ill person. A compassionate narrative, the book shows us how life doesn’t stop when we are providing care to sick loved ones — it only gets trickier."
— Brandeis Magazine