26 November, 2015

Book Review: Still Alice

From GoodreadsAlice 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 changes her life--and her relationship with her family and the world--forever.
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 Judith Guest's Ordinary People.

Thoughts: I can be quite a morbid person. I will run the most horrific scenarios through my head wondering how I would cope. Loss of my husband, loss of one of my kids, going blind, cancer diagnosis. Alzheimer's is one of those most terrifying scenarios. How on earth do you cope with losing yourself, losing everything you believe makes you you, everything you have created, worked for, slipping away from you.
As a neuroscientist Lisa Genova knows her stuff. This makes this even more scary as you know what she is describing is in fact very, very real. As she says at the end, this book does not describe everyone's journey with Alzhiemer's, but it does depict one possible path.
As with her book Inside the O'Briens, Genova takes you through her characters realisation there is something wrong, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and deterioration. She explores the affect on spouses and children, especially given the hereditary nature of the disease. I was concerned momentarily about it become another O'Briens when the subject of testing for Alice's children came up and whether or not they should be tested. However, unlike the O'Briens where it became a significant sub plot, it was very quickly and easily dealt with.
I have no experience with Alzheimer's. It is not something that has appeared in my family tree and for that I am grateful. I do not know how I would react as a spouse of someone with Alzhiemer's, but I will admit some of John's (Alice's husband) reactions annoyed me. They had such limited time left and all he seemed to want to do was ignore it. Having said that, the book is told from Alice's perspective the only insight you get into John is through her.
I listened to this as an audio book, read by the author. It flowed easily and I think would be a fairly easy read, even if it is emotionally charged. There were times when tears welled, but they never spilled. Again, like the O'Briens, Genova finished the book before the ultimate demise - a good thing. As the reader you know where the story will end and it's almost like watching a family go through this, then withdrawing at the appropriate moment to allow them their privacy.
Genova has two other books I haven't read - Left Neglected and Love Anthony. Both sound interesting and I will have a look at them. Love Anthony in particular interests me as it seems to move away from the neurological disorders field. As I said, I feel one of Genova's strengths is her professional knowledge about the conditions she writes about. I hope it's a skill she can carry across to other areas.

Still Alice gets 4 stars

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