Friday, January 30, 2009

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is a first novel by former neuroscientist Lisa Genova. Genova uses her background in brain development and functioning to insightfully and creatively craft a novel that explores the heartbreak of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD).
Dr. Alice Howland is a fifty-year-old professor of linguistics at Harvard University. She’s married with three grown children and has a very successful and fulfilling career. When she starts forgetting how to get home, missing classes, and overlooking deadlines she realizes that something is wrong. For months Alice tries to ignore her increasingly abnormal memory problems, but when she forgets to catch a flight to a conference she decides to see a doctor.
Eventually diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice negotiates with her family and colleagues to maintain as normal a schedule and a life as she can. Genova uses each chapter to represent a month in Alice’s ordeal and this linear structure works effectively to show the reader how EOAD is a progressive disease. The characters are engaging and sympathetic and we come to feel forlorn along with Alice as she struggles with losing her career and status as a Harvard professor and forgetting her husband and children.
Still Alice is a thoughtful and simple novel that successfully portrays the nightmare of living with dementia. Genova’s skill at creating realistic characters is vital in showing that Alzheimer’s victims are not to be feared, but to be treated with love and patience.

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