Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

I literally just finished this book (in under 3 days I might add), and I have not yet stopped crying. Lisa Genova's novel, "Still Alice" is a beautifully written and gripping first person account of Alzheimer's Disease. The main character Alice is a world renowned expert in linguistics, Harvard Professor in Psychology, mother of three, and a wife, who we follow from her realization that something is amiss, to her acceptance of the disease which is Robbing her of her memory, and beyond. To top it all off she is only 50 years old, and still in the height of her career when the heart breaking diagnosis is delivered.

It's hard for me to know where to start in this book review, because while I think anyone could really enjoy the book, I think I was so moved by it due to my associations with the disease. Not only did my grandfather on my mother's side have Alzheimer's, but my grandmother on my father's side had early onset Alzheimer's just like the character in the book. While reading the words on the page I was forced to also dredge up memories of my own grandmother, picturing her unable to speak or communicate what she needed from us. The book also touched on the genetic mutation that leads to Alzheimer's disease (and it's 50% chance of being passed on), which caused me to think about the possibility, or probability of my parents inheriting this heinous disease, or even myself and my siblings. In fact as soon as I finished the book I immediately sent an accusatory email to my Aunt who lent me the book, saying that I loved it but how could she let me read something that would touch so close to home, and then called my father hysterically crying.

Now, I know that this may sound like I'm not encouraging you to read this book, but oh cont-rare! I LOVED this book, it drew me in from the minute I started reading it, and couldn't put it down. I was immediately connected to the characters, and my heart broke along with Alice and her families as she lost sight of things that were once so familiar to her at a rapid pace.

I also think it was also important for me to read, because even though it's fiction, I feel like it helped me understand what it might have felt like for my loved ones to fight such a horrible illness. It also made me aware that I don't focus enough on it, and finding a cure. Why do I donate and participate in the fight for a cure for so many other diseases when this is the one that has the potential to tear my family apart the most? So I also emailed my family and decided to participate in this year's Memory Walk:

The books the main character once says that if she could she would trade this disease for cancer, and while the thought is a terrible one, I can't say if in her shoes I would disagree. How many of us would rather be robbed of our mind instead of our body? Please look into the walk and consider participating.

Read the book with a box of tissues close at hand. SB

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