It’s hard to read a tough book – a book that hits hard at your fears, with no solutions. Such is the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Dr. Alice Howland, renowned Harvard professor, is at the peak of her profession at age 50. Respected by her colleagues and students, she leads a busy life, while enjoying her family – her professor husband and three grown children. But lately she’s forgetting things – where she is on a usual walk through Harvard yard, failing to show up for a conference. So the fear is set – it’s the reader’s fear – she is finally diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
But while the thought of reading such a book might be grim, when you read Alice’s account of her progression you realize what humanity the author has incorporated in Alice’s voice. That’s the charm of the book - it is told through Alice’s eyes. So we feel the humor in even the scariest moments – her anger when her underwear doesn’t fit until she’s told she’s putting it on her head. The story is a page turner. While it is told through the victim, we see how the disease affects her family - the struggles of her husband and children to cope as they lose the Alice they knew. But Alice re-invents herself, or shows she’s still the same person at heart, when she reaches out to other Alzheimer sufferers to form a support group. The author shows her own expertise, her PhD in neuroscience, when she weaves such facts into the story. While there are many support groups for the caregivers, there are very few groups for the victims.
So through this tough book the reader does face one of the most feared diseases of our time and realizes that, for one thing - not every forgetful act is Alzheimer’s – but also that every person has their value. The will and warmth of Alice leaves nothing but a calm voice to face any fear.
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