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Still Alice Mass Market Paperback – December 16, 2014
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
"With grace and compassion, Lisa Genova writes about the enormous white emptiness created by Alzheimer's." -- "The Improper Bostonian" --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Alice's character is beautifully drawn and the details of her medical condition are scary, fascinating and made me highly sympathetic. The novel's structure--each chapter taking place about a month apart over two years--is an effective way to show how the disease eats her alive over time.
But so often the simple rules of good fiction writing aren't followed here, to the point where I wanted to leap in and start making editorial notes in the margin. ("Show don't tell." "Make your details mirror your themes.")
For starters, each character says exactly what they feel and no descriptions carry any nuance or complexity. This means the book wears its themes on its proverbial sleeve, leaving readers with a lot of emotion but no meaning to tease apart.
Secondly, the writing itself is devoid of any rhythm or sense of beauty. The Alzheimer's itself does the heavy lifting, as if Lisa Genova had pointed a camera at Alice and her family and let them talk. She's reporting, not writing.
Finally, there were times when Alice's functioning seemed almost normal and then a few pages later, she couldn't complete a basic task. If that's how Alzheimer's affects people it should have been mentioned, because otherwise it's not believable. Interestingly, the film, which I loved, didn't have this problem.
There is so much to like in this novel, and with a year of writing classes under her belt Genova could be absolutely great. Here's hoping she signs up for a good fiction workshop.
there is much focus on the caregivers with books and support groups etc. but the Alzheimer's patient is left on their own. This book indeed discusses the caregiver and family challenges but the overall theme is what is going on in the head of Alice..
anyone who is being touched by Alzheimer's or dementia should read this book. I have already recommended it to several friends .
I dearly loved Carolyn and was determined to find the best place for her to live out her days. In many of the places I visited, I saw groups of people who were heavily sedated. It was heartbreaking to see patients, with no life in their eyes, staring at a television screen. I became frantic until I found the perfect place for her. The facility itself was home-like, cheerful, secure and spotless. It was surrounded by beautiful gardens and outdoor patios. The residents were a lively group, and the staff treated each person with loving respect. Everyone was kept busy and activities abounded.
I visited Carolyn four times each week and watched her decline. She still knew me and even my name until she had a psychotic break. The end was near, and I begged God to take her. As of this reading of Still Alice, she has been gone for two years. My last good memory of her occurred when she bent down and plucked a single blade of grass and marveled at it.
Lisa Genova described EOAD so accurately that I read my sister's life through her eyes. I became concerned when Carolyn was unable to find the word for the simplest object. A chair was the "thingy that you sat on". Everything became a thingy, much as it did for Alice. She also repeated herself numerous times in our frequent coast-to-coast phone calls. Her husband refused to take her to a doctor or to even admit that anything was amiss. As a result, my husband and I moved back East from California.
Soon after we got back, Carolyn's husband died, and I immediately took her to a neurologist. He determined that she was in the advanced stage of the disease. Although he prescribed Aricept and Namanda, he cautioned me to expect little from the drugs.
I always wondered what went through Carolyn's mind because she was unable to articulate her thoughts. The book gave me some insight, although I do not think it possible to read someone's mind. I often wondered when she crossed the line between knowing she had Alzheimer's and having no clue. She had occasional bouts of anger which I think rose from frustration. The biggest irony to me is that the more the disease progressed, the gentler and sweeter she became. I likened her to a happy little toddler.
Finding Alice was a comfort to me. I was especially happy that Alice's children rallied round her. Lydia, in particular, who had butted heads with her mother for years became her greatest champion. I was ambivalent about her husband, especially when he wanted to move her to New York to secure his dream job. I learned from Carolyn's doctors that Alzheimer's patients possess a strong sense of place. Expecting to take Alice from the only home she knew because he incorrectly assumed that she wouldn't know the difference was wrong on many levels. On the other hand, I couldn't fault him for commuting to New York. As a full-time caregiver for so long, he had a right to pursue his dream. Leaving Alice with her children, grandchildren and a paid caregiver was the best solution.
As another reviewer wrote, this book should be required reading. As the baby boomers age, we are ill-equipped to care for the increasing number of Alzheimer's patients. Becoming a full-time caregiver for someone who is unable to perform the smallest task takes its toll even on a young person. With the disintegration of the nuclear family, adult children might not be able to move as I did. And there is the nasty little problem of money. My sister was fortunate to be able to live in a top-notch facility. Sadly, she is the exception. One of the most daunting challenges facing researchers today is finding a cure.
I thank Lisa Genova for writing an informative, no-holds-barred book about a disease everyone fears. Still Alice does not romanticize dementia as other books, such as The Notebook, have done.