Monday, January 31, 2011

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007)

This book was recommended by my aunt, and since she just turned 70 I find it very brave of her to have read this, as it is the story of a woman who discovers she is suffering from Alzheimer’s and it is at times very frightening to read. But at the same time it is fascinating and moving and I simply couldn’t put it down.

Alice is 50 years old and a professor at Harvard when she begins to notice that she has difficulty remembering things. At first she puts it down to menopause, but when she gets inexplicably lost in her own neighborhood one day, she decides to see her doctor, where she receives the devastating diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s.

This was extremely painful to read about – Alice is an intelligent woman with a busy life who also runs and takes good care of herself, and is only 6 years older than me and the same age as some of my good friends – I could really relate to her!

The author wrote the book from Alice’s perspective all the way to the end, and so the reader feels the frustration, disorientation and confusion right along with Alice as her life slowly but steadily shrinks down. It is very scary to feel what Alzheimer’s does to your mind, especially in the beginning when Alice is desperately trying to contain the damage and still function in her daily life. It is easy to understand her when she says she would gladly trade Alzheimer’s for cancer, and when she makes suicide plans. This book feels incredibly authentic as to what might go on in the mind of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s and it is eye-opening to be in Alice’s head. It is incredible to realize how much we rely on our memory for all the miniscule details in our lives and how devastating it is to lose it.

One of the saddest things for me was how Alice eventually had to give up her running…the one thing that she turned to to keep herself feeling good was eventually no longer possible, even with someone running with her. It makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to go and do as you please and having your body and mind cooperate with everything, without you even being aware of it. Quite an eye opener.

The book is also very informative and contains a great deal of scientific information about the disease. The reactions of Alice’s family, colleagues and friends are very realistically presented, as well as the life of an academic. Everything in the book is so realistic and tragic, and yet, there is a note of hope at the end. In spite of that this is definitely a book where you will need a box of kleenex.

1 comment:

Charley said...

I would like to read this one, as well as Left Neglected.