Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still Alice - Lisa Genova

Summary: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease changes her life.

As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once places her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationship with her husband, a respected scientist; her expectations of her children; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People. Summary from book, cover photo from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: This is the story of Alice, a bright Harvard linguistics professor who at the age of 50 is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. This novel takes you through the mesmerizing downward spiral of a smart, articulate woman's life to a woman whose brain can no longer form the word cream cheese, yet alone remember the names of her children. This is her personal struggle to remain true to herself even when she can no longer remember her true identity.

Alice has always led a very healthy lifestyle, fitting a run into each and everyday is vital to her existence. She watches her diet and seems to have an abundance of energy. Yet when the disease unexpectedly hits her she is powerless. It is unrelenting, taking away all of the power strong Alice has and leaving her a completely dependent woman.

Alice is not the only victim of this disease. It also takes it's tole on her family and friends. Sorrow consumes all. Co-workers can no longer look her in the eye, many altogether avoid her. Her husband fights as hard as he can against the Alzheimer's that is robbing him of his wife, only to be overpowered and turn inward. The children cope in their own ways, one becoming more harden, one becoming more defensive of his mother while yet another becomes closer to her mother in ways that had previously seemed impossible.

This is an incredibly well-written book. The turmoil within Alice's life and her daily struggles are so heartbreaking and real. I could not help but cry right along with her. There were points within the novel where I truly felt that I was losing my own mind, yet was unable to put the book down. I have no doubt that this book will haunt me for weeks to come. A round of applause goes out to Lisa Genova for putting such a difficult and often overlooked disease into the public light and giving readers a chance to experience Alzheimer's first hand.

My Rating: 4.5 stars (just because the subject matter is too heartbreaking to say I adored the book) I would highly recommend this book, yet be cautious of who you recommend it to as it is definitely an emotional read.

If I had to sum this book up in one sentence it would be: An unforgettable tale about a courageous woman whose own memory is stolen.

2 comments:

treen said...

Is this a novel or a biography? I thought this was a true story, or at least very heavily based on one. Please correct if I've been misinformed!

Heather said...

It is a novel by an author who has done a lot of research on Alzheimer's. Lisa Genova's biography reads "holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and DementiaUSA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association". Therefore she truly knows what she is talking about, making the novel read almost like a nonfiction work.

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