Publisher: Gallery Books, January 6th 2009
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New WritersThis may be one of the most frightening novels you'll ever read. It's certainly one of the most unforgettable. Genova's debut revolves around Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife,and mother of three grown children. 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.
What follows is the story of Alice's slow but inevitable loss of memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book,or to recall information she heard just moments before. To Genova's great credit, readers learn of the progression of Alice's disease through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so they feel what she feels -- a slowly building terror.
In Still Alice, Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, uniquely reveals the experience of living with Alzheimer's. Hers is an unusual book -- both a moving novel and an important read.(Spring 2009 Selection)
Still Alice isn’t an easy read.
The language isn’t hard, despite many technical/medical terms – Genova goes out of her way to make the narration flow as simply as possible. Still Alice is a hard read because of the vast amount of emotions, each one taking the reader on an entirely different roller coaster ride.
It took me a while to fall into her story. I picked the book up and down, trying to get past the first scene as John, Alice’s husband, searches for his perpetually missing keys. It was the moment she forgets her way home on her run that got to me: such an innocent, everyday moment that marks the beginning of a significant change in her life. From that moment, Alice and John became real figures in my life, people I wanted to hug and offer any help that I could.
Each character dealt with Alice’s diagnosis differently. John searched desperately for a miracle drug, disbelieving the original diagnosis; the two older children fell into a cycle of disbelief, thinking/hoping if they just told their mother to remember, all of the missing pieces would fall into place; the younger, Lydia, became the strong pillar in her mother’s life. What truly broke my heart was Alice’s colleagues’ reactions. I understood their detachment: there were still kids to teach, essays to grade, lectures to deliver, and she couldn’t meet those qualifications (painfully revealed later in the story). The vast amount of embarrassing moments, caused by either the disease or the colleagues’ reaction to it, made me feel for her and wish, like John, that a cure would appear.
The ending, however, was completely unexpected and utterly beautiful, sealing in Still Alice with the message that I think Genova was trying to teach us all along.