Book Review: Still Alice

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Harvard professor Alice Howland had the life she always wanted. A loving husband and three successful children.

And then she got the one thing she never wanted….or expected. At 50, Alice is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. As her mind slowly deteriorates, Alice struggles to hold onto those aspects of her life that she holds most dear. Her words. Her memories. Her life.

This is an incredibly realistic and therefore painful depiction of what it’s like for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and what it is like for their families. For Alice, it’s made worse due to the fact that her type of Alzheimer’s is genetic. So, not only is this disease going to rob her of her life and those activities of daily living we take for granted, but it also holds the possibility of robbing the lives of her children as well.

It’s not an easy read. I found myself aching for Alice as her Alzheimer’s progressed and she had difficulty recognizing her children. I wanted to jump into the pages and give her a hug. I wanted to be able to save her and find a way for her to get her life back. I felt her humiliation and frustration.

And I also felt for Alice’s family. Her husband, John, a scientist who can’t do anything for his ailing wife; her three children. Anna, newly married and trying to get pregnant, Tom, a surgeon, and Lydia, an aspiring actress.

I pictured myself in Alice’s shoes, my world crumbling around me. Losing the ability to process situations, fearing for when I would not remember those I love more than anything in the world, but also how devastating it would be to lose myself. Maybe we don’t always have a grip on who we are 100% of the time. We feel lost and confused, but it’s a temporary feeling. Except for when it isn’t.

For anyone who has had a relative with Alzheimer’s, you know how excruciating and awful it can be. But we expect it with relatives who are elderly. We don’t expect it with people we love and care about who are still relatively young. We don’t see it coming for us either. There’s a lot of scary things out there, but for me, this book was terrifying. Not because it was some thriller about a serial killer, but because it was just….too real. But that’s also what makes it a wonderful story that will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

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Book Review: The Forgetting Time

Title – The Forgetting Time

Author – Sharon Guskin

Wow. Sharon Guskin hits a home run with her debut novel, The Forgetting Time. I really did not want this book to end because I found it so engrossing. But with that being said, it may not be for everyone. The story follows single mom Janie and her precocious son four year old son, Noah. Parenting is never easy, and parenting as a single mother is even harder, but as the story unfolds, Janie cannot even begin to imagine how difficult caring for Noah will become. You see, Janie finds that Noah’s oddities can no longer be dismissed as him having a vivid imagination. Noah remembers things he should have no memory of, like a vacation house. He’s never seen a gun, but tells stories of being shot. And Janie’s never read Harry Potter to him, and yet, he knows details from the books. Faced with the possibility that Noah might be sick, Janie becomes desperate for answers, desperate enough to seek out Dr. Jerome Anderson. Anderson, who was once a prominent and promising professor of psychology is now the laughing stock of his field. Why? Because his life’s work has become about chasing down accounts of past lives.

Now, you don’t have to believe in reincarnation to enjoy this book, but being more open to it helps.

In the end, though, it’s not about the metaphysical. It’s a book that challenges us to ask questions, questions like, what came before and how does it affect who we are now? Do we really only live once? And finally, can we ever reconcile our past with our future?

Rating – 5/5 stars