Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

5 Stars

It’s not often that I will give a book 5 stars.  It takes a lot for me to hand out that extra star that takes a book from being really good to one that I not only liked but wanted to read again almost immediately.  I would heartily recommend this book to everyone, especially those of us who have been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease, whether a friend, family member or other loved one.  A glimpse for those of us who don’t have the disease to see into the mind of someone who does.

Dr. Alice Howland is a renowned psychologist, an expert in linguistics and teaches at Harvard.  She has written a book with her scientist husband and has three children.  She has the ideal life.  Alice is getting ready celebrate her fiftieth birthday when her world starts to unravel.  She begins to forget small things here and there, but doesn’t worry.  She chalks it up to menopause.  But then she gets disorientated in an area that she’s walked daily for over twenty-five years.  She doesn’t know where she is and nothing clicks, nothing looks familiar.  Alice knows that it’s time to talk to a doctor.

Alice is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  A devastating diagnosis at any age, but one that is even more difficult for a woman who is in the prime of her life and the top of her profession.  Knowing that not only is she going to decline, but she’s faced with losing everything that made her the woman that she is, her very sense of self.  What will she do when she can no longer remember the names of her children?  The name of her husband?  What happens when she forgets who the woman in the mirror is?  When she loses the ability to speak or communicate with her loved ones.  What is her disease going to do to those that she loves?

This book was engaging and also terrifying.  How many of us have had moments where we’ve forgotten what we came into the room to do?  Forgot where we put our keys?  Forgot what we had for dinner the night before?  And how many of us have lain awake at night wondering if those lapses in memory are the start of something more sinister than simply getting older?  This book was an unflinching look at the life of a woman with a terrifying disease that is eating away at her memories and watching the devastating effect that it has on her and those around her.

The book is told from Alice’s point of view.  You’re in her mind as she declines.  You ache for her as she goes from an active participant in life to living vicariously through the eyes of those around her as she nods and laughs in the appropriate places though she has no idea why.  But she is still there.  She is still alive.  She is Still Alice.

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