Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Rating: *****

alzheimers-still-aliceOne of the best novels I have read for a while – I would love to see books like this one be required reading in English/real-life classes in our schools.  Still Alice is beautifully written and is a wonderfully healing book.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova gives us an insightful window into the private thoughts – and struggles – of a woman in her prime who has to come to terms with a dianosis of Alzheimers Disease.  I very rarely cry during movies – let alone when reading a book – but this novel proved to be the exception.  There was one place in particular where the story prodded at my own experiences and tears poured freely down my cheeks.  My own grandmother had Alzheimer’s and my father died before he would have shown symptoms.  I also have a brain injury and at times my own experiences are strikingly similar to those that Alice describes at the beginning of the book.  I struggled with the thought that it would be almost impossible for me to know for sure if and when my symptoms had jumped rails and switched from brain injury to Alzheimer’s…

I carried on reading, gripped by the sensitive and very real way that Lisa Genova takes Alice from pre-diagnosis to full-blown Alzheimer’s, somehow managing to preserve grace and humanity every single step of the way.  I learned so much – about Alice, her family, my grandmother, myself, people.  I couldn’t believe how little I knew about this disease when my own grandmother – we – lived with it for at least a decade.  I was sad that I hadn’t known the facts of what I learned in these pages but what saddens me even more is the deep loss I feel that we don’t know more about the lives of the so-called ‘disabled’ among us.  Our existence is so enriched by their often amazing perception and gifts to us all.

This is Ph.D neuroscientist Lisa Genova’s first novel and, I hope, just the first of many.  She is also a columnist for the National Alzheimer’s Association.  Lisa managed to create a hitherto completely unvisited Wonderland for Alice with a distinctly human and kind Mad Hatter.