Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Genre: General Fiction
Publication Date: January 2009 (1st published 2007)
Time/Pages: 7hrs 51mins/292 pages
Book Source: Own audio
Narrator: Lisa Genova

Synopsis: Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife, and mother of three grown children - sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. She has taken the route for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Medical consults reveal early-onset Alzheimer's. 

Alice's slowly but inevitably loses memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book, or to recall information she heard just moments before. Genova's debut shows the disease progression through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so readers feel what she feels - a slowly building terror.

My Thoughts:
There are few of us not touched by someone with Alzheimer's. Experiences, thoughts, memories define who we are, to lose them is to lose the essence of one's self ... and that quite frankly scares me to death.   

Still Alice is told from the perspective of 50 year old Alice Howland, a cognitive Psychology Professor, driven, highly accomplished, controlling but intelligence is no immunity to early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. As the threads of Alice's memory unravel, the fabric of her life is irrevocably changed and her relationships redefined. It's heartbreaking, inspiring, touching and very, very scary. 

I've worried lately about my own lousy memory; having the name of some 'thingie' on the tip of your tongue, not being able to recall the name of someone you've known for years, finding the butter in the laundry basket and undies in the fridge and put it down to exhaustion, stress, ??early menopause. I think I giggled (a little hysterically) when I failed to remember that name and address Alice was tested with at each neuro appointment. Alzheimer's is one of those terrifying things you really don't want to think about, let alone face.   

Still Alice is sensitive and funny and sad and real, so real in fact, I forgot that Alice and her family were fictional. I cried for Alice, her husband and children, the loss of memories, communication, time, a future, but I also laughed at Alice's spirit, her ingenuity, and her sense of humour. There were scenes that broke my heart; Alice disorientated in her own home needing to use the bathroom, the black mat, not knowing her children. 

“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m so afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”

“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”

“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”

“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”

Alice liked that.
The mother in her believed that the love she had for her daughter was safe from the mayhem in her mind, because it lived in her heart.

Still Alice prompts the reader that Alice is still ... Alice, more than a cruel disease, entitled to dignity and respect. 

This emotionally powerful 5 star read is marred only by the audio narrator. Lisa Genova's writing is beautiful in its strength and raw poignancy so I'll forgive her monotone narration but she really should stick with what she does best ;)

Recommend: Yes! A story that deserves to be read, needs to be read ... by everyone.  




23 comments:

  1. Hi Sheree
    Great review on this one. I just read Love Anthony and now am very keen to read Still Alice. Cheers Jennie
    http://daystarz.wordpress.com

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    1. I hope Love Anthony is just as good, I have high expectations now. Did you review it? I'll have to pop over and check ...

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  2. This was the first book I read in 2012. I had been avoiding it even though everyone seemed to recommend it. My father-in-law was lost to Alzheimer's seven years ago and I witnessed his decline.
    I'm so glad I finally read Still Alice - it's on my 2012 Favorite Books list.
    Great review, Sheree!

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    1. I'm so glad I read it Mary, it would have been even more emotional for you with your father-in-law. Such a cruel disease.

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  3. Great review!! I am thinking I need to add this to my list!!

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    1. Everyone should read this one Julie!!

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  4. I totally agree, this is an all time favourite book, possibly the favourite. I have read all 3 of Lisa G's books and by far this is the most memorable, I have enjoyed them all.

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    1. good to know Marce, I'll try and pick up Love Anthony next.

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  5. I remember something else by her that I wanted to read, so yes would like this one then too

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    1. Love Anthony has been doing the blog rounds recently B, hope it's as good as this one.

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  6. You are such an eloquent writer my dear!!

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  7. I loved this book too and at the time I read it, my grandfather had just recently passed away from the bastard disease. As I am getting older I find the exact same memory things happening to me as you do!! I try not to worry about it too much, but it shakes a person up for sure!

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    1. Staci the words in your review about your Grandpa brought tears to my eyes. I laugh about my memory lapses, I know they're due to tiredness, stress, medication but deep down Alzheimer's is one of the diseases I fear most, it just seems so terribly cruel.

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  8. Sounds like a very emotional read.

    Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, I have been away for a while (getting married took over my life) but getting back to visiting my favourite bloggers.

    carol
    Dizzyc

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    1. Waving hello Carol, congrats! have you done a wedding post?? I'll stop by soon so I can check for photos :)

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  9. Beautiful review - I loved this book and think everyone should read it.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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    1. Thanks Lainy, when you love a book you really do want everyone to read it. I'll have to check out your review!

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  10. This sounds like a gorgeous book, though difficult to read in some ways. My mother-in-law suffered from severe Alzheimer's -- it's one of the most devastating ways for ones life to end, in my opinion.

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    1. I agree Stephanie, so many people have been touched by this horror disease. If only a cure was close or at least better treatment :(

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  11. I agree with mental illness and Alzheimer's becoming so more common and better understood this book sounds like it should be compulsory reading before you have to deal with anything like that.I will have to make sure I read this at some point over the next year. Great review.

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  12. I have been looking at this one for awhile, now; wanting to read it, but a little bit afraid. I think we all fear losing that essence of ourselves. And then if we've known or loved someone who had the disease, the grim reality of what can happen is etched starkly in our minds.

    Avoiding a closer look might seem like a way to avert the disaster of it touching us personally. But the opposite is probably true. Gazing at it could help put it in perspective.

    I know I want to read it. Thanks for your wonderful review.

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  13. I really could not remember (!!) what this one was about. I think I should read it and see if I should pass it to my friend who lost her mother to Alzheimer's. (*but I don't want to cause her more tears, so we'll see). Thanks for the review!

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  14. I forgot I wanted to read this one (no pun intended).

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