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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Still Alice by Lisa Genova~★★★★★

Author: Lisa Genova
Title: Still Alice
Release Date: January 6th, 2009
Publisher: Pocket
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease changes her life.
As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationship with her husband, a respected scientist; her expectations of her children; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.
At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People."

Taryn's Review: A few years back I took a college course called Death and Dying. My professor created a "game" where we had to write down things we loved and hated on torn pieces of paper. He would then come by and snatch up the pieces of paper, leaving us all in the end with three slips of paper. Some people had items listed like books, computers, and cars. Other people had people remaining on their slips such as husbands, sisters, and fathers. At the end of the snatching, some people had only things and hard feelings for the people remaining on their pieces of paper. The professor then asked us if those three slips of paper were the only things left that we could remember in the entire world, would we want to live any longer?

I don't know the answer to that question to this day and after reading this book, I still don't know. Lisa Genova has done a beautiful, heart-wrenching job of presenting the mind of an Alzheimer's patient to those of us who do not suffer from this disease. She offers what it might be like to live inside a body with a mind that has few memories left.

You will cry when you read this book. You might sob, in fact. I first started crying when Alice didn't recognize her daughter Lydia for the first time. In fact, it brings tears to my eyes right now just thinking about it. I don't think I had a dry eye after that moment in the book. During so many parts in the book, I felt my heart sink because I knew Alice loved her children and that she wanted to remember them, but God, she just couldn't and it broke my heart all over again.

And the difficulty Alice had in her own home was so challenging to read. My brain kept telling me that there had to be something to help her; something in the world could help her remember, right? No. Alice keeps slipping further and further away as her loved ones watch helplessly, but not hopelessly.

Think about all the moments you use your memory. Think about how your memory defines who you are in every word you speak, every thought you think, every movement you make. Without your memory, would you even be the you that you currently recognize? What if you didn't know who you were anymore...you couldn't remember? Alice's life was gone one fragment at a time, seemingly erased from her mind.

This is a must-read and I truly thank Lisa Genova for writing this book. It tore my heart to shreds, but I can honestly say I have a better understanding and sympathy for not only Alzheimer's patients, but their families and friends as well. Read it.

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