Monday, September 21, 2009

Still Alice - Lisa Genova

Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Inc
Price: $28.95

It seems suitably appropriate that today I finished reading "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova, a novel about a 50-year-old Harvard professor who develops Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day - a day when Alzheimer's organisations all over the globe raise awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia.

Alice Howland is a world renowned cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University. She's happily married and looking forward to becoming a grandparent. But lately her brain has been playing tricks on her - words disappear from her mid sentence, she has no idea what things on her to-do list mean, she gets lost on her run, a route she takes daily.

At just 50 years of age, Alice is given a terrifying diagnosis: Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease and her life and those of her loved ones are never the same again.

Words like "uplifting" and "heartbreaking" get bandied around a lot by reviewers but in the case of "Still Alice" they are totally justified. Lisa Genova explores this fragile topic with empathy and grace showing the impact on Alice and her family as her once sharp and brilliant mind succumbs to this frightening disease and the threat that hangs over her three children; did they inherit the malfunctioning gene which caused Alice's condition?

I loved the passages when Alice was listening to the conversations around her having no idea what they were about and trying desperately to figure it out - they seemed so genuine and real and achingly beautiful to read. On more than one occasion when confusion sets in I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her tightly and let her know it would all be alright.

But of course everything won't be alright.

Alzheimer's is a cruel and relentless disease, one I watched first hand take away my Nana from us. It is the most common form of dementia. Progressive and irreversible, there is currently no cure. Affecting about 10 percent of people age 65 and up, the prevalence of Alzheimer's doubles roughly every 10 years after age 65. And with a globally aging population, more and more people and their families will be living with this mental illness - it is estimated about 16 million people will have the disease by 2050 in the United States alone.

I loved this novel. It is moving, it is dignified, it is compelling, it is raw in its honesty - an emotional story that will stay with me.

Love ya Nana. Bee happy! xoxox


Lisa Genova said...

Hi Kelly,

Thank you so much for reading Still Alice and for writing such a beautiful review. I'm so glad the story moved you. My Nana also had Alzheimer's. She inspired this story, and I'm thinking of her today on World Alzheimer's Day.

Best wishes,

Kelly said...

Hi Lisa and thank you so much for your kind comment on my blog! It's a real thrill for me to have you see my review.

I've just given your book to my mum to read and I know she will love it too.

Thanks again and take care!