472 of 480 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Moving
When Dr. Alice Howland first starts forgetting things like words when giving a speech, she thinks it might be because of menopause. But when she gets lost jogging near her house, on a route she has taken many times, she knows something is seriously wrong and seeks medical help. Not quite fifty, she is totally unprepared for the diagnosis - early onset Alzheimer's. As the...
Published on May 2, 2008 by drebbles
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, the book doesn't ring true for me.
We have been dealing with Alzheimer's disease in a close relative for three years now; she was officially diagnosed last summer. If there is one hallmark of this disease, in our experience, it is denial, denial, denial. I read this book, desperate for insight into her failing mind, and what I found in the book was nothing that matched our reality. There is no rational...
Published 23 months ago by L. Evelev
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472 of 480 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Moving,
When Dr. Alice Howland first starts forgetting things like words when giving a speech, she thinks it might be because of menopause. But when she gets lost jogging near her house, on a route she has taken many times, she knows something is seriously wrong and seeks medical help. Not quite fifty, she is totally unprepared for the diagnosis - early onset Alzheimer's. As the disease progresses, Alice and her husband John learn everything they can about the disease and treatments, but Alzheimer's quickly takes its toll on both Alice and her family.
"Still Alice" is a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel about the devastating affect Alzheimer's has on its victims and their families. Author Lisa Genova's choice of Alice - young, in shape, and intelligent (she's a Psychiatry Professor at Harvard) - shows that Alzheimer's can strike anyone, not just the elderly. The book is written from Alice's viewpoint, but Genova does a good job of showing the affect of Alzheimer's not only on Alice, but how her family (John, and their children - Anna, Tom, and Lydia) struggle with the changes in Alice. Genova does an excellent job of describing what is going on in Alice's head as the dementia increases. In fact, Genova does such a good job that I sometimes forgot the book was fiction and not about a real person.
"Still Alice" takes place over a relatively short period of time (September 2002 to September 2005) and it is frightening how fast the Alzheimer's takes over Alice. Genova skillfully captures the bewilderment Alice feels and there are some moments in the book that are very moving - especially a moment involving a black rug and a moment involving a message a healthier Alice left for a sicker Alice. The reaction of Alice's family as they deal not only with her having Alzheimer's but the fact that her children may inherit the disease is very realistic. Inevitably, of course, life goes on and Genova expertly shows Alice's family as they move on with their lives, even if readers won't always agree with their actions. If I have any quibble with the book, it's that it is one chapter too long - the second to last chapter ended on a poignant note and I think Genova should have stopped the book there.
"Still Alice" is a moving tale about the devastating affect Alzheimer's can have on a family. (A portion of the sale of each novel will go to the Alzheimer's Association.)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
159 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars art imitates life.....life in my home imitates art,
I read this book on a flight to Dallas, Texas to see my father. Through a series of small strokes he was showing the effects of progressive dementia. Family was trying to decide what we should do. I cried all the way through the book. I had seen my father twice beffore this trip and had observed enough to br concerned.
Alice Howland taught cognitive psychology courses at Harvard for over twenty-five years. Alice and her husband, John authored Molecules to Mind, she published papers, and lectured around the world. Her three children were grown and on their own paths (not that she was very happy about Lydia's choice of acting, but she hadn't given up trying to influence her to go back to real school). Her son Tom was doing well in school, daughter Annie and her husband, Charlie are attorneys trying to conceive a first grandchild.
Facing a busy schedule and travel and everyday stress, Alice isn't concerned when she begins to forget little things, where the keys are, names of acquaintances or a momentary sense of disorientation. After all she is fifty and that is part of menopause. .
A trip to her family doctor to get some suggestions for cognitive memory reinforcement and to see if medication is available does not help. Alice is stunned to learn that she has Early Onset Alzheimer's and that there is not very much available for treatment. Telling her husband and children is even harder to face. Eventually she has to face the loss of her teaching and life's work.
"Still Alice" is Alice's voice as she struggles with the advancement of Alzheimer's. As the disease advances, she is living more in the now, and often hurt by her interpretations of family member's words and actions. She reacts with anger and confusion as her world shifts and becomes more unfamiliar and frightening. Her family also has to deal with their emotions. The realization that their funny, loving accomplished mother and wife is slowly disappearing before their eyes are devastating, and they each react differently. Alice tries to stay aware of what is happening, but has the disease advances her voice becomes quieter and briefer. Lisa Genova has a Ph.D in Neuroscience from Harvard University and works with several Alzheimer's organizations as well as serving as the online columnist for the national Alzheimer's Association. Although "Still Alice" is a work of fiction, it is apparent there is much drawn from real life experiences and observations. Genova has given a voice to a population not usually listened to. The characters are facing uncertainty and struggling with Alice's decent into unknowing. There are moments of hilarity as well as heartbreak. This book will touch anyone who works with dementia patients, or who has a friend or loved one with Alzheimer's. (early 2008)
Less than a year later finds me, the reviewer, caring for my own father in my home as he succumbs more and more to his organic dementia. We have had to uproot him from his home in Texas to move into our home in Utah where either my husband or I can be with him around the clock. We moved into a house and I have drastically cut back on my work load. I keep looking back to the pages where Alice tries to describe her confusion and tries to frame what she wants from those around her so I can somehow meet those same needs in my Father. I fear I am falling short.....there is so much anger directed at me and my husband for moving him away. No matter how hard I have tried I feel I am falling short. "It's nothing personal, Mary....I like your brothers more than you". It's not all gloom and doom. There are glimpses of his sly humor, Dad often says the blessing at dinner and is sure to add "Please bless this food especially since Mary has cooked tonight" that is if he can manage to say all that before we all get the giggles and just say "amen". I work with this type patient everyday at my job, yet it is different in my home caring for my own Father. I reread Still Alice as a roadmap. it is one of my best guides.....though the road is unknown and I feel completely unprepared to travel it. It reminds me that Dad is also traveling down a road that is unknown to him.
108 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK,
In "Still Alice" it is uncanny how Lisa Genova gets everything right. Reading it was like reliving the adventure Jenny Knauss and I have had with AD since her diagnosis the first of April 2002.
We have good friends who have written first person accounts of living with AD - Tracy Mobley, Charles Schnieder, and Richard Taylor - and those, and other, particular accounts are invaluable.
Lisa has followed the path of fiction to create a more universal picture of AD. Here many morsels of AD are distilled into the life of one person - Alice - which makes a very potent brew. In fiction Lisa can artfully connect the lurches and crashes of AD and carry the reader along smoothly, but with a powerful driving force. Many a signature morsel of AD is blended so artfully that one doesn't realize that it is there until the taste is almost over - as it is in reality.
And, there is a progressive point of view. Rather than treat people living with AD as victims who need help from the social workers dominating the AD establishment, we should treat Alice as still Alice still living her still real life.
The speech by Alice (pages 249 to 252) to a fictional plenary symposium of the annual Alzheimer's Association Dementia Care Conference of 2005 is a manifesto for the progressive view that our approach to AD should be to help people living with AD enrich their lives and have fun. (Jenny made the same points in a conversation for a plenary symposium at the actual Dementia Care Conference in July 2005.)
This book should be read not just by everyone embarking on an adventure with AD, but by everyone. It will give you the most potent and universal understanding of the AD experience, and it will motivate you to become a champion for the more progressive view of AD.
I predict that this wonderful book will become a best seller because of praise by readers.
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lively Read About Devastation,
Five stars for the story, the inexorable and electrifying train wreck of Alice Howland's mind.
Four stars for the writing, workmanlike with occasional deft passages.
Three stars for the dialogue, often flavorless or clichéd.
The novel gets off to a gangly start, and by page 18, when Alice tells her daughter, "You're not getting any younger, Lydia. Life goes by too fast," I made a note in the margin: "Only Alzheimer's will save this book." And soon enough, it did. Anyone with the least knowledge of dementia knows where Alice is headed, but Lisa Genova finds plenty of conflict in Alice's struggles to hold on to her thoughts, and in the strained reactions of her husband and three grown children.
Sometimes you can feel the author's research creaking in the background. But when the book anchors down on Alice and her confusions, the story is just right. There's Alice early on, covering up her lapses in memory and the words she can't pull up, fooling almost everyone but herself--but at a party, to everyone's embarrassment, she fails to recognize a woman she'd met only ten minutes earlier.
"Still Alice" is a lively read about devastation. Some of the sidelines in the novel's plot barely matter--but the steady unmooring of Alice's mind grabbed me on page after page. The story is never without tension, because we want to see what happens, how fast it will happen, and how the author will handle a mind that's losing track of itself. She handles it well, having worked hard to imagine early-onset Alzheimer's from the inside, from Alice's point of view.
Anyone interested in Alzheimer's and other dementias will find this a powerful book.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down,
This story deeply touched my heart. I couldn't put it down. Lisa Genova gives us such a revelation of what a person goes through on their journey down the road to dementia. It was at once interesting, entertaining, and informative, but mostly it tugged at my heart. I could feel Alice's confusion; I wept for Alice and her family, but I rejoiced in the love and care shown to her. I highly recommend this book .. a "must read"!!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Heartbreaking,
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Frankly this book scared me more than anything Stephen King or Dean Koontz could ever have penned. I found myself unable to put the book down, and felt a pit in my stomach feeling nearly the entire time. I think what makes the book so affecting is that Genova doesn't try to embellish the story, or even spend an extraordinary time developing this character of Alice before the disease really begins to take root. Instead she just presents what would happen in an almost detached and clinical way, easily showing the frustration and sheer horror, as your ability to even pick up the phone and talk is destroyed by this awful disease. It's a book that's tough to shake off, and yet I'm glad I read it for the depth of understanding of what Alzheimer actually does to someone.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories Dissipating into Fog,
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Rarely have I been so deeply moved by a book. Not often does the character befriend me and I gladly accept all her secrets to my keeping. Never have I not written a review for over a month simply because I am still in mourning. All this occurred because of "Still Alice," by the brilliant author, Lisa Genova.
Alice is a tenured, deeply respected professor at Harvard. Accolades surround her; some jealousy jousts with others in her field occur, but mainly at parties she and her Harvard Science professor husband hold court. Three bright children have come from their union...two highly productive and one very artistic. "The charmed life" seems coined for this couple, until........Alice notices lapses of thought, forgets how to return home while jogging on a daily path, rampages the next door neighbor's kitchen mistaking it for her own, and rambles during lectures she may remember to attend or NOT.
Off to the neurologist, whom after testing Alice, relates quite flatly that she has "onset Alzheimer's" at the age of 50. Her husband rages at this diagnosis. Her children fear. For the rest of the journey we follow Alice, her deepest thoughts, her clumsy mistakes, her journey's into past memories while the present moments are lost.
The mesmerizing prose is so eloquent it aids in reading Alice's demise into dementia. The scientific accents help in understanding the mechanics of what is happening to beloved Alice's brain. The human emotions exhibited make it so real and so honest we can not remain detached bystanders even though many of her family and friends do just that.
If you read no other book this year, read this one. It will be a painful journey, but you will be so grateful for the knowledge and, as in my case, for meeting Alice. She became a dear friend and I will always love her.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotionally challenging and memorable novel,
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Not all books should be easy on the emotions; though I don't want a steady diet of novels that make me sad, nervous, frightened ot otherwise anxious, occasionally reading a story from an author who presents a slice of life difficult to experience helps me grow. Joyce Carol Oates is one of those authors (I need to be sure I can handle difficut topics before I tackle one of her novels).
If this 1st novel by Lisa Genova is a hint of works to come, I may need to think twice before starting her next books. Still Alice is a story that challenged my emotions. It is based on one of life's most unsettling, relentless and equalizing themes: our powerlessness to win the battle against some degenerative diseases. Like the central character, I and many of my friends are 50-something professional women, so while reading the book, I found it too easy to see the possibility of Alzheimer's Disease affecting my life, either personally or through a loved one, in the way it affected Alice and her family.
So did I enjoy reading the book? Not really. Am I glad I did? Absolutely. Lisa Genova's writing style was simple but not simplistic. And while focusing primarily on Alice's personal battle with Alzeimer's Disease, there was enough depth in the supporting family members struggles to make it believeable and give Alice's life texture.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Heartbreaking Work,
"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova is a unique book, one that offers readers an inside look at living with Alzheimer's. It is a beautifully written book, at times poetic in its images of what is happening in the main character's brain. It is fast-paced and hard to put down, but due to its subject matter, it is a difficult book to read; a heartbreaking account for anyone who has a loved one who suffers from this bewildering and devastating disease.
Alice Howland is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University, a popular professor and speaker, an expert in linguistics who relies heavily on language not only to teach but to know who she is as a person. When she begins forgetting things, like a word she needs in the middle of a presentation, or where she lives when she's out on a run less than a mile from her house, she knows something must be wrong with her. She fears the worst would be a brain tumor, but is not prepared to learn that she has early onset Alzheimer's. At first she keeps her diagnosis a secret from her family and colleagues, but the day comes all too quickly when she must tell them the truth.
Her revelation is devastating for her family, but in many ways it brings them closer together, even while Alice's mind causes her to drift further away. Those who are familiar with the disease will recognize and understand the changes in Alice, her inability to retain storylines or even remember who her children are. It is a sad story, but one that is beautiful and unique in its depiction of what Alice feels watching all that she has known and loved slip away until she will no longer recognize it as having been a part of her life. "Still Alice" is poignant, heart-breaking book that is hard to put down and even harder to forget.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read,
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I started STILL ALICE last evening and could not put it down. Lisa Genova entices the reader into the Protean world of Alzheimer's. STILL ALICE is the story of a dreadful (and dreaded) disease which daily diminishes its victim, Alice, and continually challenges her circle of friends and family. Lisa Genova's silk soft words and gentle unfolding of characters spin a compelling tale. Her well-researched and superbly crafted novel offers scientific and philosophical perspective. But most of all, it offers comfort. It will make a positive difference in the lives of many people.
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Still Alice by Lisa Genova