“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
Mo Willems, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review (psychology, fiction): Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice
Lisa Genova
Pocket Books 2009
(review by LK Hunsaker of LKHunsaker.com)

Alice is a 50 year old psychology professor at Harvard who has co-authored a text book with her husband, a research scientist, and has established an incredible reputation as not only a preferred teacher but also as a world-traveled speaker. As she celebrates her birthday, she is struggling with memory issues and even starting to get lost close to home in an area she's very familiar with. Going privately to a neurologist, she is diagnosed with early onset alzheimer's disease.

Since Alice is the POV character, you have to wonder how Genova will continue to follow her story as Alice lapses further into the disease. I was rather impressed with how well she managed to show the early struggles as well as the progression. All of the characters are well drawn from Alice's POV and we get to know some of them better than others. I found it interesting that the child she says she knows the least is the one we know the most. The other two are mainly background.

Her husband, John, is an interesting character and at times, I wanted to yell at him for being so self-centered, but then looking back at their history, I couldn't help but think Alice partly made him that way with her work obsession. The novel is a nice look at marriage-combined-with-work issues, as well as the dementia issue.

From the beginning, we bond with Alice. Anyone who has ever been so busy finding a set of keys seems an impossible task will relate. This makes us truly sympathetic of her plight and we pull for her to keep going, keep trying. As we do, we learn much about Alzheimers and how it progresses and how they are working to find ways to slow or stop it. There is also information about how to keep the brain healthy in general.

At times, the writing is a bit stiff, especially at the beginning, but Genova is a first time novelist and I believe she may find her stride with the next.

This is a must read for anyone dealing with dementia in a loved one, anyone with dementia in their family history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand this disease. It is truly educational and heartwarming and sad and hopeful all at once.

This review was originally posted at http://lkhunsaker.blogspot.com. The book was purchased by the reviewer and no compensation has been offered or received. Posted here with permission.