Monday, January 21, 2013
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Still Alice is well researched story from the point of view of a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. I appreciated this aspect of the book because one never really knows what it's like to be inside an Alzheimer's sufferer since it is such a relentlessly progressive degenerative disease. Once they succumb they can no longer communicate in any deep or meaningful way with those around them. In Still Alice, we get a window into Alice's perceptions and thinking; the frustrations and early denial are palpable. And then, towards the end, there is a sense of resignation in her and her family, and sadness, mainly just from her family as Alice, by this point is unaware of much of what is going on. There is no way around this disease, no cure, no way through it other than to just accept what is. All very frustrating for us who like to have answers and some semblance of control.
This is a good and important book, but I did have a few problems with the details. Like, Alice just happens to be a Harvard cognitive psychology professor, an expert in the very area of her own brain that has fallen ill? Seems pretty convenient to me. And why do there have to be such hard-core professionals in a story like this? Not only professionals, but *Harvard* professionals. It's almost like the author is trying to make Alzheimer's seem much more tragic because these people are Professors! Doctors! Lawyers! And, oh yes, one misunderstood aspiring actress thrown in there to keep it *real*. I don't know. Maybe I'm being petty but it's stock details like these that irk me about contemporary fiction.
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert on linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life - and her relationship with her family and the world - forever.
At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of like with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People. (back cover)