Sunday, November 8, 2009

Still Alice

Still Alice, by new author Lisa Genova, is an insightful, fictional story of a woman whose world is slowly disappearing through early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. The writer, Lisa Genova holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University and is an On-Line columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. Initially inspired by her own grandmother's gradual decline from Alzheimer's , Lisa Genova has written this book from the character Alice Howland's point of view as she slowly loses her memories, her vocation, her life, her mind.

Truthfully, after the first 20 pages I placed this book down thinking that perhaps it was a book for another time. It is not the sort of book that I normally gravitate to, yet there was something that drew me back, causing me to read it through to the end.

Alice Howland had just turned 50 when she first began to notice the changes. She was a Harvard psychologist who became concerned with her lapses in memory, putting them down to menopause, stress and fatigue. Without giving the intricacies of this compelling story away, I will say that I was educated in the realization that Alzheimer's does not just take away the ability to remember the names of people, places or things, but it also inflicts fear, disorientation, erratic behavior, emotional outbursts and visual disorders. It is the story of a family - a woman, her husband and her three adult children and how the disease afflicts and affects each one of them intimately, differently and how it changes them. It is thought provoking and controversial at moments. It is challenging and poignant, sweet and harsh at others.

Through the eyes of Alice, we become a witness to 'the long goodbye', as she slowly disappears from herself, as her family slowly slips into the shadows. We also look at Alice through the eyes of her family as they watch her gradually, in almost unbearable increments, leave them. It was through tears that I finally closed this book. It was well written, simple in it's offering, but not an easy read by any means.

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