Book Review: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 2007
Number of Pages: 293
Amazon Plot Synopsis: Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind.
Why did I read the book: This month(November) I finally joined a book club. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. I think it will really challenge me to read new material that I wouldn’t pick on my own. Still Alice was the book club’s pick for the month.
Review: Still Alice is heart-breaking and riveting. This book moved me to tears on several occasions. I don’t have anyone close to me who is living with the disease but while reading the book it was easy to put myself and my loved ones into the story.
I would tell people to put this book on their must read list. Alzheimer’s is on the rise in this country, at some point you may know someone with this disease. While the book is a work of fiction, the author Lisa Genova is a Ph.D in neuroscience and the book is very medically accurate. This book gave me a look into how it feels to suffer Alzheimer’s or have a family member who suffers from it.
One quote from the book I find very interesting and shocking is when Alice is thinking about her disease and says: “She wished she had cancer instead. She’d trade Alzheimer’s for cancer in a heartbeat. She felt ashamed for wishing this, and it was certainly a pointless bargaining, but she permitted herself the fantasy anyway. With cancer, she’d have something to fight. There was surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was the chance that she could win. Her family and the community at Harvard would rally behind her battle and consider it noble. And even if it defeated her in the end, she’d be able to look them knowingly in the eye and say good-bye before she left.” I this quote was shocking and heart-wrenching to me. This book opened my eyes to many of the stigmas that come along with this disease.
Another really fascinating part is when Alice tells her children about her diagnosis. The relationship between this family is so real and relatable. When Alice tells her children about her diagnosis, she also tells her children the option they have to undergo DNA testing, to know if they were also carriers of the disease. Two of the children had the testing and one did not. It is so interesting the differences of what people want to know or what they don’t.
Another topic of discussion around this book is the issue of quality of life. This book raises the question of doctor assisted suicide. An issue due to my faith I see as black and white. Through conversations with my book club, and friends I have been able to see some grey areas and wrestle with this topic.
I flew through this book. It was a quick read but not always an easy read. I found it interesting and well paced. I think it gave an honest and real picture of what dealing with this disease is like. For me as a reader it made examine my life a little bit, and it was a reminder tomorrow isn’t guaranteed so appreciate your todays.
Reading Next: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern