The first book I finished reading this year turned out to be one of the best novels I have ever read. This book intrigued me and engaged me the entire time I was reading it, and it will definitely make my “Best Books of 2011” list! My librarian recommended it to me. I should have known it would be excellent. Now I am determined to pick her brain some more!
Still Alice (Genova) is a story about a woman who is a Harvard professor, at the height of her career and the picture of health, who has just turned 50. She starts experiencing some disorientation and memory loss and at first dismisses it as symptoms of menopause or being overly tired and stressed. Soon after, she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
The fascinating part about the book is that it is written in the first person. You see everything from Alice’s point of view. As the disease progresses, the book gets more and more interesting. Toward the end of the book the only way you know exactly what is happening is through the descriptions of other people’s reactions and words, and you are required to piece everything together.
I kept thinking about how tragic Alzheimer’s Disease is and how, in a lot of ways, it seems like a fate worse than early death. It was really interesting to see how the disease affected Alice’s relationship with her husband and also her children, and how there was one particular relationship that was restored through the disease.
The author gives us a lot to think about. How much of our mind creates the essence of who we really are? What about other facets of our being—our heart and emotions specifically? What exactly makes a good quality life? What are choices we would make if faced with a similar situation?
I expected the ending to be inevitably sad, and maybe even tragic, based on some clues the author left along the way. But I was surprised a bit at the end, and left wondering if it was truly a tragic story after all. Yes, it was sad. But I decided it wasn’t the worst thing and there were many redemptive things about the story and Alice’s situation.
This would be a fabulous book to use in a book discussion group. In fact, I’m going to make Kevin listen to the audio book (read by the author) so that he can discuss it with me! I highly recommend this book.