Lisa Genova,
Still Alice
(Gallery, 2009)

This beautiful debut novel from Lisa Genova is exceptionally moving in its portrayal of early onset Alzheimer's disease, and is at once riveting, poignant, heartbreaking, terrifying. With her credentials, Genova is highly qualified to speak about the effects of Alzheimer's, both for the patient and the patient's loved ones and caregivers. An unusual approach, her novel looks at this debilitating disease through the eyes of Alice, a victim of EOAD, and through her eyes we gain a greater appreciation of the random cruelty this disease imparts on its victims.

Alice's disease begins with small lapses in memory that she attributes to stress and menopause, but her symptoms grow more severe in a joltingly brief amount of time. These maddening lapses in memory begin to rob her of who she, what she knows, the very essence of herself. Her disorientation grows. She frustratingly alternates between bewildering states of confusion and perfectly lucid moments. We see her anguish at having to leave behind an accomplished career. She mistakes the utility closet for a bathroom, the black hallway rug for a hole in the floor, the microwave's beep for the telephone and doorbell. Flashes of frustrated anger begin to pepper her personality. We feel her terror in this moving account told through Alice's eyes.

Rarely have I been so deeply affected by a fictional character -- maybe because I have older people in my life, maybe not. This compassionate depiction of Alice's terrifying descent into Alzheimer's would resonate with anyone who has an open heart and empathetic nature. I think of Alice and her family often, as well as the thousands across the country like them. Quite simply, this is one of the best and most unique books I have read in a very long time.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

9 April 2011

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