20 August, 2015

Book Review: Inside The O'Briens

From Goodreads: From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.
Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Thoughts: I must admit I was wondering how indepth Lisa Genova's research for this book had been. It appeared to be fairly detailed and she came across as being pretty knowledgeable about Huntington's Disease - so really not that surprised to find out she's a neuroscientist.
I listened to this as an audio book and loved it. A bit slow to start with, I found it really picked up once Joe received his diagnosis and Katie's story came more into play. I liked how Genova concentrated on Joe and Katie rather than trying to tell the story of all four of the kids. While I'm sure the other three, JJ, Meghan and Patrick, all have interesting stories in their own right, but by limiting it to just Katie you didn't feel overwhelmed.
This book raises so many questions for the reader about their own life. If you could know the approximate timing of your death, would you find out? Is there a point to finding out if there is no treatment? How would knowing or not knowing change the way you live your life?
Genova takes an ordinary family dealing with ordinary things - grown kids, work, money concerns,  - the same stuff we all deal with day to day. Into this family she drops a bombshell and then follows the shockwaves as they radiate out and touch others around them. The strength of this book for me lies in her ability to paint a family I can believe in. I can identify with how Joe's kids feel, how his wife feels, even with how he feels. I get frustrated with things they do or say, just like I would with my own family. I cried at their heart breaks and cheered at their triumphs. In short, the O'Briens became my friends and despite the fact they are fictional characters, I found myself sending them love to help them through their journey. Regardless of the outcome, I know those who survive will be ok.

Inside the O'Briens gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing