Sunday, July 12, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova ~ Book Review

Alice Howland is a brilliant professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard and is world renowned for her research into linguistics.  Being a sought after lecturer she has a very busy schedule teaching her classes, lecturing at conferences all over the world and conducting research.  It is a life she loves.  Her husband is also a busy Harvard professor of science conducting cancer research.  Study and learning are very important to them and they have tried to pass that on to their adult children.  Their oldest has become a lawyer, the middle child a doctor but it is their youngest whom Alice locks horns with constantly as she has no interest in academia and has chosen instead to pursue a career in acting.  While her husband is supportive of this, she just cannot help constantly questioning her daughter's decisions. As Alice prepares for a new semester at work, small incidences of forgetfulness and disorientation start to show up in her days.  When she becomes lost in a part of town that she knows like the back of her hand it truly frightens her, she makes an appointment at her doctor's thinking she is experiencing a bad case of menopause.  It is then that she is handed the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers at the age of 49.

This book was very moving and chilling in it's story.  It is taken from the viewpoint of Alice which is an approach that I've never read before.  I've read other stories that deal with this horrendous disease but always from the spouse, caretaker's or family members points of view.  I cried through out the book as Alice's frustration and fear of what was happening was tangible through the words.  Her having to slowly let go of life as she knows it and loves it as the disease quickly progresses is truly heart breaking.   It is so well written in it's attempt to show the reader what a person going through this disease might go through and feel.  It describes the disease, it's consequences and progression so well yet never gets bogged down in super scientific terminology so even someone like myself easy was able to understand what Alice was experiencing.  The author herself has a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association so the story rang very true in it's descriptions.  She also mentions several areas of drug testing within the scope of the story that was interesting.

I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say I especially liked the progression of Alice and Lydia's (the actress daughter) relationship in the story.  It was moving to have privy to the change even though they are fictional characters.  The story ended in a way I was not expecting at all.    

I saw this book mentioned on Faith's website, she highly recommended it, and I was also interested when I saw that Julianne Moore had won the academy award for her portrayal of Alice in the film.  I determined to read the book first so that I could get the author's original intents and story rather than Hollywood's version and I'm so glad I did.  It was heart breaking, beautifully written, sensitive, intelligent, compassionate and informative.  I, also,  highly recommend this book to everyone.  It will change how you view and relate to someone going through Alzheimers and/or Dementia.

Rating:  10/10

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book a friend recommended, A book that scares me, A book that made me cry, A book by an author I've never read before, A book that became a movie


Gattina said...

I have seen the movie ! One of the bests I have ever seen ! So touching !

nikkipolani said...

This is the second mention of this book I've seen lately, and thanks for your review. I've a friend who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a couple of years ago. When I spoke with him last Christmas, he said so humbly, "I just go where God takes me."

Faith said...

i plan on seeing the movie as soon as it is on netflix! and guess what! i met Lisa Genova in downtown chatham at a book signing! sadly, i didnt have my camera with me as we had been biking and hiking and daves smartphone battery needed to be charged! lol. she was such a sweet girl! we talked briefly about my mom and the alzheimers. im reading Left Neglected which is awesome! i had no idea that was a physical issue from a brain injury!!

Barbara H. said...

This sounds like a compelling book. I don't know if you follow Sandy at Jesus and Dark Chocolate, but her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's a few years ago. It's a heartbreaking disease.