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Still Alice Paperback – January 6, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Neuroscientist and debut novelist Genova mines years of experience in her field to craft a realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland has a career not unlike Genova's—she's an esteemed psychology professor at Harvard, living a comfortable life in Cambridge with her husband, John, arguing about the usual (making quality time together, their daughter's move to L.A.) when the first symptoms of Alzheimer's begin to emerge. First, Alice can't find her Blackberry, then she becomes hopelessly disoriented in her own town. Alice is shocked to be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (she had suspected a brain tumor or menopause), after which her life begins steadily to unravel. She loses track of rooms in her home, resigns from Harvard and eventually cannot recognize her own children. The brutal facts of Alzheimer's are heartbreaking, and it's impossible not to feel for Alice and her loved ones, but Genova's prose style is clumsy and her dialogue heavy-handed. This novel will appeal to those dealing with the disease and may prove helpful, but beyond the heartbreaking record of illness there's little here to remember. (Jan.)
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"Heartbreakingly real.... So real, in fact, that it kept me from sleeping for several nights. I couldn't put it down....Still Alice is a story that must be told." -- Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader
"After I read Still Alice, I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, 'You have to get this book.'" -- Beverly Beckham, The Boston Globe
"This book is as important as it is impressive, and will grace the lives of those affected by this dread disease for generations to come." -- Phil Bolsta, author of Sixty Seconds
"With a master storyteller's easy eloquence, Lisa Genova shines a searing spotlight on this Alice's surreal wonderland. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read this book. It will inform you. It will scare you. It will change you." -- Julia Fox Garrison, author of Don't Leave Me This Way
"A work of pure genius." -- Charley Schneider, author of Don't Bury Me, It Ain't Over Yet
"A masterpiece that will touch lives in ways none of us can even imagine. This book is the best portrayal of the Alzheimer's journey that I have read." -- Mark Warner, Alzheimer's Daily News
"With grace and compassion, Lisa Genova writes about the enormous white emptiness created by Alzheimer's." -- The Improper Bostonian
"Heartbreaking." -- The Cape Cod Chronicle
“Because the full, internal experience of Alzheimer’s is an account that fiction alone can deliver, it’s no surprise that the go-to book for caretakers and early-stage sufferers is a novel. “Still Alice,” written by the neuroscientist Lisa Genova, offers a crisp, straightforward, and wrenching depiction of the fifty-year-old Harvard professor Alice Howland’s descent into the swift, early-onset form of the disease.” (The New Yorker, "A Place Beyond Words: The Literature of Alzheimer")
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Most dementia-related books are memoirs written by family caregivers since the diagnosed generally lack the stamina, organized thinking, self reflection and awareness to narrate their story. Their literary voice is silenced even before the disease literally destroys it. Genova’s approach, getting inside of Alice’s head as she goes about her day, while also describing non-afflicted peoples’ reaction to her increasingly bizarre and unsettling behavior, gives this book its intimate power. The reader sees the duality of the disease: who Alice thinks she is while others see who she is not.
By writing fiction in the third person, Genova, who is a neurologist as well as an author, gives us a realistic and first-hand insight into the thinking of the diagnosed and those who love them. The author describes medical testing, support groups, the loss of brain and body function, and the impact of the disease on individual and collective interests. Through a fictional character, Genova gives voice to the real-life sufferers of dementia.
“Still Alice” is an astonishing and loving work of perspective and one of the best books about memory loss that I have read.
This book was an incredible read and, written by a neuroscientist, gave an insight into what goes on in the mind of a patient with Alzheimer's. When you are on the outside, looking in, it's difficult to understand what happens inside the head of someone facing these diseases that strip people of their cognitive function. It is obvious from the story that the author not only has a huge talent for writing, she did her research in trying to share the experience of the patient. She also shows how these diseases impact everyone around them and people react in very different ways. That was how it unfolded in my own family and was tough on everyone concerned.
This is one of those novels that I would recommend to just about anyone. If you have no experience with the disease it will be enlightening. If you know someone who is touched by this, it will give you a window into the mind of your friend or loved one. A tough, difficult read at times but well worth it as it is a brilliant novel.
The book offers a Q & A with the author, plus some book-club ideas for discussion.