Nancy's Reviews > Still Alice

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
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Mar 03, 2011

really liked it
Read in March, 2011

(Y'all! Do you think I might have early-onset Alzheimer's? I studied linguistics! I am 54! I forget where I put my keys with astounding regularity, and since Hurricane Gustav ripped down all the landmark trees in Baton Rouge, I often feel disoriented in familiar places! MAYBE I'M ALICE.)

I gave STILL ALICE only three stars, not because it wasn't riveting (it was) but because it was SO UPSETTING. Alice, Harvard professor of linguistics and mother of three, suffers a series of memory lapses that finally force her into her doctor's office and the diagnosis that seems inconceivable: she has Alzheimer's Disease. STILL ALICE chronicles her rapid decline and the impact it has on John, her brilliant husband who cannot seem to find a way to love a no-longer-brilliant wife; daughter Anna, whose quest to have children may be short-circuited by the possibility of having a genetically-linked disease; and daughter Lydia, an aspiring actress whose relationship with her mother has always been fraught. These things are actually painful to read about, despite Genova's skill at creating a tender center in the story; although Alice's mental acuity is dying, her emotions are, if anything, more highly tuned than ever, adding a poignant sweetness to some relationships and deeper hurt to others.

STILL ALICE started slow; I was a little bored by it until Alice received her diagnosis, and then it picked up steam, quick, fast, in a hurry. I'm not sure if this was about the writing or about the subject matter; my own father was an Alzheimer's patient, and Genova really nails so many of the peculiar facets of the disease. Alice's emotional lability, sudden episodes of disorientation, repetitive questions, and the like all rang very true to me. I found the story gripping; about midway thru, I could no longer put it down, and so I ended my day on a really sad note (despite the gentle ending). But you know what? That's not Genova's fault. The book deserved four stars for being so riveting. I guess I'll change the star rating, but BE WARNED: it will make you wonder if your own mind is going.
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