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October 2016 > Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

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message 1: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
hey All --
A reminder that the discussion for Inside the O'Briens will begin next week on Monday, October 24th.
Looking forward to our discussion! :)

message 2: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments Good morning! I hope everyone enjoyed the book. Inside the O'Briens made me think of choices we need to make that not only affect ourselves but those around us. Modern medicine has given us many gifts for extending our lives but also gives us the opportunity for finding out about possible diseases we could have inherited such as Huntington's disease and breast cancer even before we become symptomatic. If you had the chance would you want to find out what is hiding in your genes and if so, what would you do with the information? Would you be like JJ and Meghan and face it head on, Katie and struggle with the decision or like Patrick and not want to know? If you did know, like Joe, who would you tell and when? I personally would be like Meghan and find out. Although it would be painful to tell others, I would want follow my dreams and take risks while I can. All too often we put off things thinking there will always be more time.

message 3: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments I'm not sure if I am the only one in our group, but I have had genetic testing for the breast cancer gene mutations. I went through the counseling session (only one at the time for me) and then had the testing done. It was a nerve-wracking process, especially since I was in the midst of my treatment for breast cancer. I think I was at the surgery stage and heading into chemo when I had the testing done.

The thoughts that run through your head are horrifying and frustrating and you feel like you have lost all control over your life. I was lucky in that my results were negative, meaning that I did not have the breast cancer gene mutations that would have forced me to make other decisions about potential preventive surgery options.

When I read this book, it really put my own experience in perspective. As difficult as my decisions were, the ramifications of having the BRCA gene mutations are nothing like those that are associated with the Huntington's Disease gene mutations. It was so scary to read about the significant decline in function that Joe experienced in a relatively short period of time. It clearly demonstrated that anything that happened to one member affected the whole family, a fact that became so clear to me when I was going through my treatment.

message 4: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments Wow Ellen, I could never imagine going through that. I'm glad your results were negative. Those are decisions no one wants to make. When illness hits, no matter what it is, the entire family is affected. What did you think about JJ's choice of not testing the unborn child? To live for 18 years not knowing if your child is positive or negative must add to the pressures of a marriage and being a parent. I found it noble of him to let the child decide once he is 18 but it would always be in the back of my mind.

message 5: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments I think testing their unborn child might have forced them to make a more difficult decision if he tested positive for the mutation. And they wanted a child so badly, that would have really wreaked havoc on their marriage I think. There is a 50/50 chance the baby won't have the mutation, plus onset of symptoms is later in life, so the ensuing 35 years or so might lead to a cure or to better management of the symptoms at least. These seem like really bizarre things to be thinking about your life, but from dealing with it myself, I know it happens.

While it is a difficult situation, often the anticipation of making the decision can be the worst part. Once it is made, it is like a weight is lifted. Then you shift into dealing with the ramifications of your decision if they turn out to be tough. But the key is to free yourself from second-guessing your past decisions and just look forward. Not easy, but essential.

I don't wish health situations like this on anyone. But it's impossible to plan ahead for them and to know what you'll do. Often when you are in the midst of it, you find yourself feeling and doing things you never could have predicted. But going with your gut can be the best approach, especially if you find yourself agonizing.

message 6: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
Wow, Ellen, I am glad your results were negative as well. I can't imagine the stress that put on you during an already stressful time.

I think what you say about the anticipation being the worst part is true, and in the book I think that holds true for Katie as well. For the months she was choosing not to find out, the possibility of the disease still ruled her life and her decisions (or rather her paralysis in making any decisions).

I think I would also have to find out. I think the uncertainty would drive me crazy. And in a family like this where half of your family members are positive, knowing your status will help you all in the planning for going forward. It was never going to be a solitary decision or path for this close family.

Reading of the onset of the symptoms and the functional decline of Joe was heart-breaking. I loved that he started wearing tee shirts that spread awareness about Huntington's.

message 7: by Lori (new)

Lori (widz) | 55 comments I really liked this book, and went through the same reactions I did when I read Genova's book Still Alice, namely, feeling like I wouldn't be able to read any further because it was so emotional, and at the same time, not being able to put the book down. I'm glad I had my tissue box with me.

I think the author touched on so many important points that incurable illnesses and chronic illnesses force us to at least think about. I don't know what I would do if faced with the decision about genetic testing. Part of me would want to forge ahead and find out everything but I know I would struggle with the consequences. Ellen, I like your suggestion of "going with your gut." I think once you decide to do that, like Katie did, you may be able to deal with whatever arises in a more accepting and peaceful way.

Following Joe's decline was difficult, but I like the way he put his energies into spreading awareness too.

message 8: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments I liked the book also. Like Lori, it was good to have a tissue box nearby. I almost don't know where to start. There were so many aspects to the book. It killed me not knowing Katie's results, ugh! :-) But we know that was not the point.
I see this story from a personal perspective as well. I am glad your test and actual experience with breast cancer was resolved in a positive (so to speak :-)) way, Ellen.
My husband has MS and it does have a genetic component. Any of our children can get it. It doesn't mean they will, but they could. What we have learned from living with it, is to take it day by day. Live like it wasn't there. As best as you find you can.
Funny to say so, but this story and others like it, make me realize just how fortunate we are. Generally, MS won't kill you, it usually annoys you to death. Though, there are aspects that can occur that could be life threatening. I won't go into them, too depressing.
We decided to live like it wasn't there on a daily basis but have contingency plans if things went south.
The book touched on so many different things that triggered thoughts and emotions for me, incredibly happy, sad and all kinds of between. You do get caught up in the story. :-)
I knew everyone's reactions and thoughts would jog a lot for me, leading to more comments/thoughts on my part.
Good pick, Marlies!

message 9: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments I also had to have a tissue nearby. I was going to take the book on vacation with me but didn't want to be sitting in the airplane crying :)

Part of the book that touched me was when Joe finally realized that his mother was not the monster that his younger self remembered. Throughout the book Joe's mother comes up frequently. It isn't until he himself is going through the symptoms of Huntington's that he realizes she was telling them how much she loved them. It seemed so sad that he went through life thinking his mother was an alcoholic when in actuality she was just sick. Would his relationship with his mother have been different if he knew what was going on and what he could expect as the symptoms got worse? Would a child be able to understand? Or did they just not know enough about Huntington's at the time to be able to explain it to him.

message 10: by Becky (last edited Oct 27, 2016 10:44AM) (new)

Becky | 140 comments Yes, where Joe finally realizes what happened and understands what her "noises" really had meant. It led him to wearing the tshirt and telling his children how he felt about them while he could. Also leading him to be as proactive as he could.

message 11: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments I too wondered a lot about Joe's mother. Was she diagnosed with Huntington's at the time? Or did they just keep her in the alcoholic box they had placed her in? Even though she drank to deal with her symptoms. And if she was not diagnosed properly, I can't even imagine what she must have endured mentally and emotionally.

I think at the very least if Joe and his sister had known their mother had a disease rather than being an alcoholic, that would have changed their memories of her and therefore their maturation process. It was such a sign of hope for me when Joe realized that his mother was still conveying her love for him even when her body would not cooperate.

I also read Still Alice by this author. Has anyone else?

message 12: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
I wondered about Joe's mother too; I was unclear on if she had ever been actually diagnosed. It seemed to me like they wrote her off as an alcoholic and she had not actually been diagnosed. And if so, how horrible for her to be trapped in her body and kind of blamed for what was the disease instead.

I agree that it definitely would have changed how he grew up thinking about her. He wouldn't have felt such shame and would instead have had more compassion. I was glad he realized the truth and had peace and love for her by the end.

I have not yet read Still Alice but have heard good things.

message 13: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments Ellen, I read Still Alice and another book by her Loving Anthony which dealt with autism. Lisa Genova has a knack for making me cry. Loving Anthony was especially hard for me since my son is autistic and it was very easy to relate to. Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist and as far as I know always writes about some type of illness. If anyone hasn't read Still Alice, it was a wonderful book.

Illness and family relations seem to be at the heart of her books. Some bring families together and others tear them apart. So much like real life.

message 14: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments I had just turned 50 when I was reading Still Alice and it pretty much scared the crap out of me, reading about a woman my same age dealing with early onset Alzheimers. But it was well written and very engaging and I always recommend it. I am a bit wary of watching the movie though.

I have added Love Anthony to my To Read list. I have a nephew with Aspergers. Speaking of which, my other book club recently read Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb, which I recommend. It's about an older man with autism, who was institutionalized at a young age, though he seems quite functional and likely wouldn't have been so today.

message 15: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments Still Alice scared me too, especially the part where she realized that there were so many books she wanted to read and she just couldn't follow the plot. I have Best Boy on my list (I was probably waiting for you to return it to the library :)) Just worried that I will be crying throughout the book

message 16: by Becky (last edited Oct 27, 2016 10:45AM) (new)

Becky | 140 comments Speaking about Joe's mom's diagnosis, I wonder if they knew what Huntington's was then. Or if they did, disease was considered a dirty secret. My grandmother died at age 52. I suspect cancer but I really don't know. I was told she got sick, declined and died. A year or so before my birth.

message 17: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments I kind of wondered about that too. Back then it was taboo to speak about illnesses (although I don't think being known as an alcoholic is better). The origins of Huntington's disease was discovered in the late 19th century but the actual genetic component wasn't discovered until the 1990's.

message 18: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments Very true Marlies. I suspect he is remembering overheard neighborhood gossip. Some people are very closed mouthed about anything personal. His dad may have been like that. So the neighborhood made up its own explanation sadly.

message 19: by Mary (new)

Mary Ann | 5 comments I have not finished the book on tape but I was wondering about the what decade the book took place in . years ago I remember learning about Arlio Guthrie having Huntington disease and Woody Guthrie having it so it's been quite awhile that information been around I did read Still Alice and felt more connected to that story I wil finish the book as I am interested in Katie outcome

message 20: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments Mary Ann.
They have cell phones, so I think it is set pretty recently.

message 21: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 223 comments It was published in 2015 and I got the impression it was set around that same time. In other words, very contemporary. Perhaps the more relative rarity of Huntington's vs. Alzheimers led to your feeling of not being as connected to Inside the O'Briens?

message 22: by Mary (new)

Mary Ann | 5 comments Yes I think my issue is with Rosie for a women even one who married early she seemed to me just a step out of time more like a women from the 1950s the whole setting seams that way to me

message 23: by Kath (new)

Kath | 200 comments Mod
I also initially thought something similar with how Rosie (and Joe at first) expected or wanted Katie to marry someone from the same small Irish Catholic neighborhood. It seemed an outdated point of view.

message 24: by Marlies (new)

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments I agree with outdated point of view. It gave the feel of a 1950's novel with the addition of a few modern twist, yoga, interracial dating, etc. I actually never noted the time frame it was supposed to have been written in. Somehow to me, everything happens in the 90's. I guess the 90's are my frame of reference and if the book doesn't explicitly give me a date, everything happens then.

I hope everyone enjoyed the book. If anyone has anything else to add to the discussion, please continue.

The next book will be Dinner with Edward and the discussion will begin the week of November 28th.

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