I first read this book shortly after its release in 2007 as part of a reading challenge and loved it. As with Lisa Genova’s novel Left Neglected, the story of Alice has stayed with me all these years. So when I received a copy of Still Alice through a giveaway, I was more than happy to read it again and share my thoughts of it with you in the hopes that you will pick up this book and read it too.
Alice Howland is a well respected and very successful cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. At 50, she is happily married to John, a successful academic in his own right, and is the mother to three grown children, Anna, Tom and Lydia. After several instances of disorientation and forgetfulness, she seeks out medical help and is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Although afraid of losing her self-awareness and that which makes her ‘Alice,’ and powerless in the face of this incurable disease, Alice is determined to live life on her terms, with courage and dignity
There are a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, available out there that give the reader wonderful insight into the emotional and physical struggles of caregivers on the front lines, dealing day in and day out with the destruction that Alzheimer’s wields on their loved ones. Their courage and strength is admirable and I take my hat off to them. In the case of Still Alice however, Lisa Genova has taken a different road, choosing to examine the perspective of the Alzheimer’s victim. Told entirely in Alice’s voice, using her memories and perception of her present situation, the reader has a sense of taking this journey with her.
As the novel progresses so does Alice’s dementia, and her once sharp, intelligent mind and exceptional memory become increasingly unreliable, muddled and distorted. Her frustration when she forgets a word, or can’t find her keys makes us cringe and think about that time when we couldn’t find our phone or couldn’t remember that word on the tip of our tongue. Our heart breaks for her as she slowly gives up the things she loves, like writing, reading and running, because we love these things too. We cry when she forgets the ones she loves because we can’t fathom a life in which we don’t recognise or remember our spouse or children.
Alzheimer’s disease destroys the essence of what makes us who we are: memories, knowledge, experiences, feelings and the relationships we have with friends and loved ones. This is what defines us. Through Alice’s story, Lisa Genova has brought these issues together and written a powerful novel about love, courage and the human spirit.
Expect to be frustrated and angry, even afraid. You will cry. Still Alice will pull your emotions in all kinds of directions but in the end there is hope. The future is yet to be written and someone working at this very moment is on the brink of unlocking the riddle of this terrible disease. I absolutely recommend this wonderful novel and give it 5/5 stars.
Other wonderful novels by Lisa Genova include Left Neglected and Love Anthony, as well as the soon to be released Inside the O’Brien’s (check back here soon for the review). For more information on Lisa Genova and her books just click on the image and you will be redirected to the Goodreads book page.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and Goodreads (First Reads) for providing me this copy in exchange for an honest review.