Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: © 2007 (iUniverse, Genova), 2009 (Simon & Schuster)
Genre: Genre Fiction / Women’s Fiction
Subgenre: Medical, Domestic Life, Family Life
Life for fifty-year old Alice Howland is full and busy. She’s a tenured cognitive psychology professor at Harvard, an expert in linguistics who speaks internationally on the subject. She has three adult children and a husband who’s similarly dedicated to his work. When she begins to suffer verbal slips and memory lapses, it takes several months, a battery of tests and visits to a neurologist for her to receive the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Still Alice brings the challenges and heartbreaks of life with dementia into the spotlight in Ms. Genova’s breakout novel. The unique perspective of going from a popular and successful professor to a dementia patient requiring round-the-clock supervision is powerful, but not enough. The book is designed to be from Alice’s point-of-view, but often the reader is an observer of Alice’s thoughts and actions. There is liberal passive voice telling the story as it unfolds, mixed with moments of showing and engaging the reader as a part of the story. The relationships between Alice and her family seemed forced at many points. Interactions that should have created tension or emotional reaction fell flat for me. All-in-all, I found the writing style distracting and was relieved at the brevity of the book.
What kept me reading Still Alice was the rapid pace and tangible nature of Alice’s disease progression and symptoms. Ms. Genova manages to keep the reader turning pages as fast as Alice’s brain collects the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. She maintains the reader’s hope that Alice’s disease will stall despite her continued mental decline. Though Alice’s journey may not be identical to those of all Alzheimer’s patient’s into the neurofibrillary tangles of the disease, everyone who has seen the effects of dementia will be able to relate to some of the details of her experience. There are poignant details that will hopefully help friends, family and healthcare providers of those with dementia to remember that they are still people. People who may be more aware of their surroundings and situations than they are capable of communicating.
Is Still Alice worth a busy mom’s time? Yes. It may not be a literary masterpiece, but it overall is a well-crafted work with valid medical insight. The unique window into the life of a person with dementia, early-onset Alzheimer’s specifically, introduces the subject from a fresh angle. At some point, most of us are likely to encounter someone we know, maybe love, with a form of dementia. Having insight into what they experience and how they may be treated is imperative in improving their quality of life and the care they receive.
Have you read Still Alice? How did you enjoy it? Do you know anyone with dementia? Which of her symptoms rang most true to you?
Thanks for stopping by! Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful. 🙂
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