Friday, January 28, 2011

STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova

I usually read YA or Upper Middle Grade.  Women's fiction is often too wrought with unbelievable and convenient drama.  Occasionally I'll pick up a mystery or some adult science fiction.  But my book club keeps me up-to-date on books I'd never pick up for myself.  I'd heard a lot of buzz about STILL ALICE.  The author lives in a nearby town and a couple of my friends know her.  So we were excited about reading the book.  I wasn't prepared for the complete emotional connection.

From Goodreads:

"One day, Alice sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. It's a route she has taken for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Is her forgetfulness the result of menopausal symptoms? A ministroke? A neurological cancer? After a few doctors' appointments and medical tests, Alice has her diagnosis, and it's a shocker -- she has early-onset Alzheimer's disease."

I bawled for 75% of this book! I usually hate to read sad books, but this one just sucked me in from the beginning. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old professor at Harvard University, is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. This book tracks her from just before her diagnosis through the time when she doesn't recognize her own family. The saddest part is (spoiler here) when she can't follow the directions she left herself to commit suicide if the disease progresses too far. It gives a face and a voice to a disease misunderstood and generally thought of as an elderly person's disease. It's heartbreaking, but really beautifully written.

I read the book in a total of about 7 hours--it's a quick read.  But be prepared to cry for a good chunk of that time.

Anyone else read any good tear-jerkers lately?


Laura Pauling said...

Sounds like a good book. I love a tear jerker!

Anonymous said...

Powerful subject. Two aquaintances I knew, one from high school and the other from early days of teaching, went through this. So sad for their children, not yet grown at the onset, but both had spouses that were remarkable.

Julie Musil said...

I'm with Paula, I love a good tear-jerker also. Just reading your post gave me chills. I cried like a baby at the end of The Notebook. This sounds like a book I'd love.

Kris said...

Thanks Julie, yes, I think it's a book you'd really enjoy.

Catherine, sorry to hear about your two friends. I haven't had any direct experience with the disease, but this book definitely brought you into the inner circle of what it might be like.

In spite of the sad topic, it definitely left me feeling like the quality of life is what you make of it.