Lisa Genova has done it to me again. I recently read Still Alice and then went back in search of more of her books when I came across Inside the O’Briens and I am happy that I went in search. Once again, she steps into the world of neurological disorders and how they have an effect not only on the patient, but on their family and the world around them.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-three year old cop from Charlestown, Massachusetts. Irish Catholic family man, married with four grown children all living under the same roof in their multi-generational home. The idyllic life that Joe has is suddenly threatened when he begins to experience temper outbursts, confused and disorganized thinking and weird, involuntary movements, movements that he’s not aware of. He tries to attribute them to the stress of his job or a recent injury he sustained when falling down the stairs. But as they worsen, he agrees to see a doctor and then a neurologist. He is handed a diagnosis that not only changes his life, but it will forever change the lives of his entire family. He has Huntington’s disease.
The disease is a death sentence. There is no cure. There is no treatment. It’s a disease that eats away at his brain and his body until there is nothing left. He learns that his mother wasn’t sent to the asylum because she was an alcoholic, she had Huntington’s and was just never diagnosed. He learns that this disease is inherited and through the wonder that is DNA, each of his children have a 50/50 shot of inheriting the disease from their father.
The story goes between Joe and his struggles with his disease and his daughter, Katie and her struggle to come to terms with her father’s illness and also with the question that hangs over her and her siblings. Do they take a genetic test to determine if they are going to develop this horrible disease later in their life? Do you take your chances and just live with the cards that you are dealt and never find out? Or do you take the test and learn how your days are going to end?
The story is a story of hope as much as it is a story about the struggle of dealing with a disease like Huntington’s. The story is powerful and riveting. You can easily put yourself into the story and wonder what you and your family would do when faced with a devastating diagnosis. This story will bring forth a lot of emotions and I will admit that I cried several times!