Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

In Still Alice, Alice Howland is a 50-year-old professor at Harvard, an expert in linguistics, a wife to John and mother to three grown children. When she starts forgetting things and becomes lost in familiar territory, she suspects that something is wrong and goes to see her doctor. The news isn't good. Alice has early onset Alzheimer's Disease. What follows is an incredible story, told from Alice's perspective, about this devastating and cruel disease.

It's hard to believe that this is Lisa Genova's first novel. It's wonderfully written with outstanding characters. It's also extremely heartbreaking. While the story is fictitious, but it really didn't feel like that. I thought about Alice even when I wasn't reading the book. She was so real to me. Even as I write this, I can feel the tears forming. This book was so easy to read physically, but hard emotionally. I feared getting to the end, but didn't want to put it down. I felt like I was losing someone, too.

I love how the story unfolds. Each chapter represents a month in this two-year journey. We get to see how the disease progresses and how Alice's caregivers cope along the way. Genova shows the wide range of emotions and reactions that patients and caregivers experience. She also outlines the information that research has yielded about Alzheimer's as well as the treatments and drug therapies that are available. While this doesn't take up a large section of the book, it's an invaluable part of the story.

This book was educational for me. Genova presents lots of great information about Alzheimer's without being dry or boring like a textbook or medical journal. (No offense to those who write them!) Of course, I had a vague understanding about the disease, but it's so much more complex than I ever knew. I was particularly struck by the genetic component and what that meant for Alice's family. Fascinating, yet depressing, stuff.

One of my favourite parts was Alice's speech at the conference. I don't want to give too much away, but it brought both tears of sadness and joy to my eyes. I wanted to stand up at the end right along with Alice's family.

The cover of this book is exceptional. I know this is a uncorrected proof, however, I hope they stick with this cover. The butterfly, the it all.

While the story was very sad, at times I felt a slim glimmer of hope. The disease still remains as merciless and destructive as ever, however, the research into the causes and new treatments continue. Maybe one day...

Highly recommended for anyone and everyone.


  1. Great Review. Every time I am at the book store I keep picking this up. I think I might have to actually make sure it lands in my basket.

  2. Cindy,
    Thanks! It really is an awesome story. I know it's just the beginning of the year, but I'm betting it's going to make my top 10 for 2009. It's that good.

  3. I've heard this is a powerful book. Thanks for the review.

  4. I've been hearing more about this does sound really good!

  5. Just finished the book and wrote a small piece on it.

    Thanks for your review. It does justice to an important work.

  6. Thank you very much, Esther. I clicked over to your blog to read your piece. My heart goes out to both you and Abe.


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