STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
In the annals of depressing books, Still Alice by Lisa Genova ranks pretty high up there. It’s about Alice, a fifty year-old cognitive science professor at Harvard who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book tracks her first moments of memory loss and confusion and the inevitable, steady descent into dementia that follows in a shockingly short period of time. The book is told from Alice’s point of view, so the reader is able to understand, in horrific detail, the extent to which Alice loses her cognitive abilities, as well as her professional and personal identities. It is a sad, sad book.

But I am very glad I read it. Alzheimer’s is such a presence in our society, with so many lives affected by this disease, whether as sufferers or caregivers or family members. The author, Lisa Genova, is a neuroscientist, and she clearly shares Alice’s analytical, scientific mind. Her writing is clear and compelling, and she delivers a lot of information about the disease without compromising Still Alice‘s structure or flow as a novel.

I put off reading Still Alice for a long time. It has a penciled $3.50 price tag on the inside cover, so I must have picked it up at a used book sale somewhere. It has been sitting in my TBR pile – I just couldn’t bring myself to pick it up. But I eventually did, and as I mentioned earlier, I am so grateful for having read it. This book will stay with me – haunt me, even – for a long time, which I think is the point. I now have a much better understanding of the experience of having Alzheimer’s – not just the stark facts about the disease.

I just checked Goodreads, and there are over 27,000 ratings of Still Alice, with an average rating of 4.23 stars (out of 5). I am clearly not alone in my admiration for this book.

 

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6 Comments

  • January 18, 2012 - 7:52 am | Permalink

    I put off reading it as well. And I didn’t post a review on my blog because some family members read my blog. I didn’t want to make a couple of younger ones anxious with my thoughts and reactions to the book. That said, I think Genova did a wonderful job portraying aspects of the disease. Having seen it ravage my father-in-law I know she nailed it – both with Alice and her family members’ reactions. I left my take on the book at Goodreads and ended up having a discussion with a few commenters there.
    I’m glad I finally read it (book club pick).

  • January 18, 2012 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    I had the same impression you did. I would recomend this book for caregivers. But, not for loved one’s unless they really want to know how devastating the disease is. this novel was hard to get through, emotional. At times, it makes you wonder, a middle age if I was not going through Alzheimer’s myself.
    After I read Still Alice, I finished reading Left Neglect, I would recommend it also. It is about our fast paced lives, and we need to slow down. I reviewed that one on my blog too. You can view it there if you are interested.
    I like reading Ms. Genova’s work because she is a Ph.d and leads into the story.

  • January 18, 2012 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    I really want to read this one even though I know it’s heartbreaking.

  • Susan
    January 18, 2012 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I read this book more than a year ago, and I recommend it all the time. As someone who has family members who have suffered from both dementia and Alzheimer’s, I found it interesting to read about the disease from that perspective. This is a definite read for everyone who knows someone with this disease.

  • January 18, 2012 - 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with your review. Until I read this book, I didn’t realize that alzheimer’s was so much more than just not remembering people, things, etc.

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