Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

  This week has been a whirlwind of novels and theories, as next week I have my first graduate level presentation (ahhhhh) and next weekend is Thanksgiving – the time to get ahead is now!

I had the heartbreaking pleasure of reading Lisa Genova’s eye-opening and daring novel, Still Alice for a class focused on memory (check out my group’s blog for class here).

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The novel reveals the gradual changes in relationships, identities, and experiences that occur with the diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD). It offers an interior view of Alice’s experiences as she copes with the progressive genetic disease but also offers insights into the difficult choices, emotions, and struggles of those who love her and know her.

I tore through the book in a single day and found myself crying while reading more than one chapter. The characters are vivid, the experience real (while somewhat distanced since Genova herself has not experienced the disease) and the emotional truth undeniable. Genova was inspired by her close experience with her grandmother’s AD along with her own academic background in neuroscience at Harvard.

stillalive

The novel deals with the academic world (appropriately at Harvard) – which requires memory more than most areas of work, age and conceptions of what it really means, death, family – from a biological and emotional perspective among others, social stigma, healthcare, identity, and the connections (or perhaps the lack of connection) between the body and mind.

The novel was educational without feeling clinical, emotional without feeling sappy or contrived, and presented a very well-rounded picture of how this disease impacts all areas of life, no matter how minute.

Repetition, use of external aids, decontextualized imagery, and the subtle, skillful use of time throughout the novel offer the reader a glimpse into the frustrations and inconsistencies of living with AD, without taking an offensive or simplified route.

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While I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘pick me up’ I’d highly recommend the novel to anyone looking to read something educational and emotional, or anyone who is dealing with the disease in some capacity.

The characters, story and impact of Genova’s novel will not soon leave me.

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