This book is essentially the opposite of my reading tastes. Any sort of classic family drama I avoid like the plague. I picked it up solely because lately I’ve been reading a lot on Alzheimer disease and how it affects the brain. Lisa Genova does a great job describing doctors’ visits, medical trials, and brushing scientific innovations while still telling a compelling personal tale. I was glad I picked it up and I think you would be too.
The protagonist in Still Alice has early onset Alzheimer’s and, unfortunately, it’s the genetic kind– giving her children each a 50% chance of suffering the same fate. Obviously, this book is very emotional and filled with heartbreak as Alice, her husband, and children come to terms with their new reality.
What really makes it special is the writing. As Alice’s mental faculties are slowly retreating and breaking down, so does the story. Alice at the beginning of the novel is a strong, intelligent psychology professor at Harvard and, as the novel is written from her perspective, at the end we see what the disease has taken from her. Lisa Genova leaves the reader in the same darkness that surrounds her protagonist by creating this unreliable narrator, one of my favorite literary devices. This story, Alice’s family, and her disease all feel so real that I often forgot this is a work of fiction. A New York Times bestseller and a recent blockbuster hit basically means you can’t ignore this story. It’s worth the read—just grab a box of tissues first.