Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kelly's Review of "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Published: Pocket, 2007
Where I Got It: The library

Forget Dracula, House of Leaves, or any Stephen King novel, this may be the scariest book I've ever come across. While there may be no vampires, demons, or murderers, there is something even more frightening: reality.

Alice Howland is a fifty year old professor of psychology at Harvard. She and her husband are celebrated scientists who have three successful children, a summer house on the beach, and seemingly perfect lives. Alice begins to forget words, gets lost in her neighborhood, and fails to recognize someone she just met minutes before. She visits her doctor, only attributing these incidents to menopause. After a brain scan, she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

While the thought of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at age fifty isn't scary enough, I did some research and found out that a small percentage are diagnosed in their early thirties. Can you even imagine?? I myself have a TERRIBLE memory; I have to write down everything or I'll forget it immediately and I can't remember saying things I said just a few seconds before. Though this is mostly due to a stroke I had in high school, the even slight possibility I could for all practical purposes lose my mind sooner than I'd think terrifies me.

Anyways, back to the book. After the diagnosis, the rest of the book follows Alice through the next year. Her progression in the disease is a rapid decline. She starts just forgetting to do tasks and other chores, yet by the end of the book, she gets lost in her own house and is beginning to not be able to recognize her husband and children. I thought the effect on Alice's family was the most interesting part; her children, all in their twenties, are suddenly forced to take turns babysitting their mother. Her husband responds to the disease with much more emotion than Alice. I couldn't even imagine myself in her husband's place - he eventually had to quit his job to care for her. That's love.

While I have no personal experience with Alzheimer's, I can deduce that this would be a pretty bleak book for someone who has a family member with the disease. Yet, all in all, this was an excellent book. I read in a few hours. Highly recommended for an eye-opening read. 5 stars.

11 comments :

  1. This is a very scary realistic read. It is an all time favourite of mine. Heartbreaking.

    LisaG released a new book last week, can't wait to read it.

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  2. I want to read this one. I have a friend who is in her fifties and has Alzheimer's. It is difficult to see her and her family go through this.

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  3. I picked this book up because my bookclub was reading it. I was relcutant to read it but in the end I loved this book!

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  4. Things like this are scary, because they actually do happen to people you know. I've come across Alzheimer's and other types of dementia a lot lately in my internships and it's a horrible disease. It's so hard on the family!
    I normally don't read books like this, because of the reality in it (I get enough of that at work), but maybe I should check this one out after all.

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  5. Oh man, this book sounds so depressing, but I think I might have to look into it. I study neuroscience and have been wanting to find more books that have to do with that area. Great review, thank you for bringing this book to my attention.

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  6. This book has been on my wishlist for a while, I've seen only good reviews of it.

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  7. I really want to read this one. My family has been affected by Alzheimer's and I've heard this is a really powerful story. Great review!

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  8. Great review! I read this one last year. Absolutely heartbreaking :( My grandmother had rapid onset Alzheimer’s after a fall & passed away a year later (in ’08). It’s a horrible disease. This is a book everyone needs to read even if it isn’t their usual genre.

    On a lighter note I’m eager to read this author’s newest release.

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  9. This is actually going to be the next thing I'm going to read. Glad I got to read a review before I started it.

    I haven't really had an experience with Alzheimer's. But it makes me sad to think about :[

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  10. I completely agree with you : definitely one of the scariest book I've ever read! But one of the best, too. It made my list of favorites for 2010 and I know it will stay with me a long time. I think the author portrayed this in a very realistic way.

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  11. Thank you for the review - this one has been sitting on my TBR stack for about a year now and this is the first review I have read. Glad to hear that it is so good!

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