Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova
First published in 2007
292 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
Written by a neuroscientist, "Still Alice" is a powerful and heartbreaking look at early-onset Alzheimer's. It was a gripping read and definitely worth your time.

The Long Of It:
Alice Howland is only 50 years old, in prime physical shape and at the top of her career as a Harvard professor and researcher of cognitive psychology. She's the last person you'd expect to have a degenerative brain disease.

At first Alice thinks her occasional memory lapses and confusion are symptoms of menopause. But after she gets lost and disoriented only a few blocks from her own house, she decides it's time to get some answers -- and she receives the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's. To make matters even worse, she learns that her three children each have a 50% chance of developing the disease.

We follow Alice along this tragic journey as she tells her family, struggles to continue teaching her classes at Harvard, gets tangled up in a pair of underwear thinking it's a sports bra, leaves her BlackBerry in the microwave, forgets the names of everyday things like watches and cream cheese, and finally fails to recognize her own children with any regularity.

We feel her frustration, her anger, her fear and her loneliness, and we're embarrassed with her when she makes innumerable faux pas, eventually completely oblivious to these mishaps. On top of that is Alice's overarching loss of her sense of self as her illustrious career falls victim to the unforgiving disease.

"Still Alice" also examines Alzheimer's from the caregivers' standpoint, and we see the full range of reactions from Alice's family -- her husband (who's painted as a bit of a selfish jerk) and her three kids. There's denial, exasperation, frustration, pity, rage and sadness -- as well as patience, kindness and love. It's perhaps even more difficult to follow along with Alice's family as they cope with her diagnosis and worsening symptoms than it is to watch Alice's once-brilliant mind deteriorate.

While the writing is a bit clunky at times and could definitely be tightened up, "Still Alice" is a very worthwhile read that sheds light on a terrible and heartbreaking disease.

Quotable quote, when Alice realizes her co-workers are ostracizing her:
"Facing her meant facing her mental frailty and the unavoidable thought that, in the blink of an eye, it could happen to them. Facing her was scary." 


  1. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it better than the book or not? (I haven't seen the movie or read the book, I'm just curious.)

    1. I haven't seen the movie yet but I have requested it from the library and hopefully I'll get it soon! I have a feeling the movie might be a little more hard-hitting and emotional than the book. We shall see!


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