"Still Alice"

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is the amazing story of a Harvard Psychology professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 50. She is a brilliant teacher and researcher, highly respected in her field, married to another Harvard professor and mother of three grown children. The diagnosis is shattering for Alice and her family and it only gets worse as the disease progresses and deconstructs her life piece by piece.

Genova does an admirable job of taking the reader inside the mind of an Alzheimers' victim, and with a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, she is qualified to tell the story. The narrator is Alice herself which helps the reader connect the dots between her thoughts and her actions. An effective technique the authour uses toward the end of the book is leaving complete blanks in the story. In the space between sections you know that time has passed, but you don't know what happened. It leaves you stranded, as Alice is, in the present moment. I finished the book understanding more about the illness and more about the thought processes of the person afflicted with it.

In a way there was a kind of relief in reading how the Alzheimers patient's mind works. We have dealt with this disease in my husband's family and it's been hard at times to make any sense of the behaviours we saw. This book suggests that the patient's actions are completely logical to her and rise naturally from what she's been thinking. They may look random and even insane from the outside, but they aren't. The behaviour comes from not having all the information needed for a particular situation and for me that made it a little easier to understand and a little less frightening.

I'm glad I had a chance to read this; it has changed my thinking. It is also a great story and well written, even if you don't have a particular interest in Alzheimers disease. It's beautiful and it's sad, a very impressive first novel. I definitely recommend it.


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