Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: Still Alice

by Lisa Genova

My Synopsis

Novel about a Harvard psychology professor named Alice Howland who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.

My Thoughts

The story is told from Alice's perspective, and the author (who herself has a PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard) relates what an Alzheimer's patient experiences as they decline. It was scary and eye opening. And sad. At first Alice, who is only 50, doesn't tell her husband about her forgetfulness but schedules a doctor's appointment, thinking maybe she's just stressed out and hasn't been getting enough sleep. But when Alice forgets to go to a major conference in Chicago, her husband is well aware that something is wrong. When Alice tells him that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, her husband refuses to accept it and scours the Internet for a "different answer."

Alice has three children, and after learning that she carries the mutant gene for the disease and her children have a 50% chance of inheriting it, two of the children decide to get tested and the other one says she would rather not know. The saddest part is when one of her daughters has twins, and by that time Alice has deteriorated to the point where she doesn't even know who anyone is.

Here she refers to one daughter as "the mother" and her other daughter as "the actress."

The mother was sitting on the couch next to the actress, breast-feeding the baby in blue.

And this...
They were talking too quickly and using too many pronouns. And the baby in pink had begun to fuss and cry...

Alice's husband is portrayed as an intelligent and caring man who obviously loves his wife, but at one point, knowing that Alice's time is short and he needs to make a choice about his career, he talks about moving out of state to take a better job. He and the children argue about what is best for Alice, while she sits and listens and is clueless as to what they are discussing.

Overall, even though it was sad, I'm glad I read this book. I learned a lot about Alzheimer's and got a great sense of what patients experience through the different stages. I wish I had read this before my husband's aunt passed away last year. I just remember her asking the same questions over and over and over.

Do I Recommend?

Yes, especially if you know someone with Alzheimer's because it will give you a better understanding of - and make you more sympathetic to - what they are going through.


Bought at a cute little bookstore in town called Sue's News.

My Rating


Other Reviews

Literary Feline
A Novel Menagerie
Nose in a Book


dArLyN said...

Great review =)

Jenners said...

This book really got to me. I found it heartbreaking ... and I think it is a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from this horrible disease.

ibeeeg said...

This sounds like a well written book that evokes a lot of emotion. With that said, I do not think I could read the book. I did loose my grandma to Alzheimer's, it was horrifically sad with tons of stress and worry for her children. I was deeply effected by my grandma's illness, when she passed was a blessing. I just do not think I could go back to that world voluntarily...not with fiction anyway. Good review, I enjoyed reading your perspective.

Lynne said...

Thanks Darlyn.

Jenners: It really was sad, I must say, but I loved the insight I got on Alzheimer's and the way it affects patients AND the caregivers.

ibeeeg: I agree. It would probably be tough to read if you're right in the midst of the same situation or recently lost someone from Alzheimer's. I take back what I said about it being good for someone like that! What was I thinking? Maybe if the person is just a casual acquaintence it would be good, just to get some insight. But yeah, you're probably right. Maybe not a good book recommendation. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it :)

ibeeeg said...

ahhh...Lynn, I didd't mean to imply that it would not be a good read for someone who is in the situation. I may very well be good. For me though, I think it may be too emotional. I can see a book like this good for someone connected with the family: friends, relative a bit removed. It possibly could be also good once I am a bit more removed, although, my grandma did pass away 19 years ago, yet when I think of this disease I feel the sadness that is involved with it. Please do not take back your recommendation based solely on what I said.
I did enjoy reading your perspective, I stand by that. :)

Hip Mom's Guide said...

Thanks for this recommendation. I'm always on the lookout for an interesting read; two of my grandparents had Alzheimers and although I wouldn't have read it during that time, I think I'd like to pick it up now. Well, perhaps "like" is a stretch, but it's sounds interesting.

Lynne said...

ibeeg: I guess it just depends on the person and their frame of mind, huh? Because Hip Mom's Guide's commented that her two grandparents had it and she thinks she could read it now. Everyone is so different. Now that I think about it, I honestly don't think if I was THAT close to someone who had Alzheimer's that I could read this. I'm a very emotional person so it would be really tough. I could see how even 19 years removed wouldn't be enough. But maybe if it were a 'friend of a friend' kind of thing or like Hip Mom said, the right time frame for me personally.

Cat said...

I read Still Alice this month too and although it wasn't quite what I expected I thought it was wonderful.
I thought I'd be too emotionally affected because of my experience with my mother but it actually had the opposite affect.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Alzheimer's is something that really scares me. I would like to read this one.

Marilu said...

I absolutely loved this book. I worked with Alzheimer's patients for a few years, and although it was fiction, it is very realistic. I would recommend it to anyone that knows and loves someone with Alzheimer's. The American Alzheimer's Association does too! The author actually writes a blog on their website.


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