Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

First review of 2011! Yay!

Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Published: Pocket, 2007
Where I Got It: The library

Forget DraculaHouse of Leaves, or any Stephen King novel, this may be the scariest book I've ever come across. While there may be no vampires, demons, or murderers, there is something even more frightening: reality.

Alice Howland is a fifty year old professor of psychology at Harvard. She and her husband are celebrated scientists who have three successful children, a summer house on the beach, and seemingly perfect lives. Alice begins to forget words, gets lost in her neighborhood, and fails to recognize someone she just met minutes before. She visits her doctor, only attributing these incidents to menopause. After a brain scan, she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

While the thought of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at age fifty isn't scary enough, I did some research and found out that a small percentage are diagnosed in their early thirties. Can you even imagine?? I myself have a TERRIBLE memory; I have to write down everything or I'll forget it immediately and I can't remember saying things I said just a few seconds before. Though this is mostly due to a stroke I had in high school, the even slight possibility I could for all practical purposes lose my mind sooner than I'd think terrifies me.

Anyways, back to the book. After the diagnosis, the rest of the book follows Alice through the next year. Her progression in the disease is a rapid decline. She starts just forgetting to do tasks and other chores, yet by the end of the book, she gets lost in her own house and is beginning to not be able to recognize her husband and children. I thought the effect on Alice's family was the most interesting part; her children, all in their twenties, are suddenly forced to take turns babysitting their mother. Her husband responds to the disease with much more emotion than Alice. I couldn't even imagine myself in her husband's place - he eventually had to quit his job to care for her. That's love.

While I have no personal experience with Alzheimer's, I can deduce that this would be a pretty bleak book for someone who has a family member with the disease. Yet, all in all, this was an excellent book. I read in a few hours. Highly recommended for an eye-opening read. 5 stars.

8 comments:

  1. I've got this one on my wish list. I have a dear friend who has been struggling with early onset Alzheimer's. It is incredibly difficult to see what it has done to her.

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  2. Oh snap. This sounds crazy good! Will have to check this out!

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  3. This sounds heart wrenching and all the more so because it is based on reality.

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  4. It does sound scary and it just tears at my heartstrings! I would bawl if I read this, which I may soon...

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  5. I loved this book but it was haunting. Early 30's? Holy cow! That would be horrible.

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  6. Hey, I found you from the goodreads College Students group, & I love your blog!

    I've heard so many great things about this book. Come to think of it, I don't think I've actually heard anything bad about it! I'm going to have to go check it out.

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  7. I don't have any personal experience with Alzheimer's but I do know a woman who contracted Lyme disease and it went untreated for so long that it has severely affected her brain. Her memory is fine but she has so many other neurological problems. She always tells me that she wishes I knew her "before" when she was normal.

    Last year one of her daughters graduated college but didn't want her to attend the ceremony. Her daughter told her she was too "embarrassed" to have her there. I felt so bad when she told me that!

    This had nothing to do with the book but reading your review reminded me of it!

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  8. That's so sad Jen! Teresa too! This book is so sad I kind of went into a little depressed funk after I read it. Definitely very thought provoking.

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