Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 1-6-09
Genre: Adult Fiction, Mental Health, Contemporary
Genova’s debut revolves around Alice Howland – Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife,
and mother of three grown children. One day, Alice sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. It’s a route she has taken for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Is her forgetfulness the result of menopausal symptoms? A ministroke? A neurological cancer? After a few doctors’ appointments and medical tests, Alice has her diagnosis, and it’s a shocker — she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
What follows is the story of Alice’s slow but inevitable loss of memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book,
or to recall information she heard just moments before. To Genova’s great credit, readers learn of the progression of Alice’s disease through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so they feel what she feels — a slowly building terror.
Wow, this book was amazingly well written! I was very impressed with the detail that went into creating this book so that it so seamlessly shifted from 2003 “normal” Alice to the 2004 “severely affected by Alzheimer’s” Alice. Still Alice was so raw and real. At times, it was even horrifying. Just the thought of having to go through something like this terrifies me. It’s one of my absolute worst nightmares, so reading through Alice’s experiences wasn’t always easy. It was actually very hard to watch Alice lose her mind without being able to do anything about it — sometimes painfully aware of what was happening to her and other times heartbreakingly non-understanding.
Genova did such an incredible job with this book. I can’t even imagine how much research must’ve went into this. Alice felt so real, and her experiences hit me really hard. I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that her narrative was going to start disintegrating as the book continued; it was a pretty depressing read, but also a very poignant one. One of the lessons of this book is how, even if you can’t remember the names and faces of the people you love, you can still feel love. I thought that that was such a beautiful message, and really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
But the reason why I couldn’t rate this book a full 5 stars is because of the ending. I’m sure that some people will like it, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I was kind of expecting it to end a certain way, and I wasn’t exactly happy (although not necessarily upset) when it didn’t play out like I thought it was going to. I guess I had hoped that, if it was going to go in a different direction from what I thought, it wasn’t going to go in the direction it did. I’m not sure I really agreed with how Alice chose to life her life at the end, but I’m not sure that I even have a very popular opinion about that, so I don’t really know what to think about the whole thing. I guess I just thought the ending was a little cheesy for my tastes, but I think that other people might not mind it.
Overall, this book was gorgeously written and a really great read. I loved (and hated) getting a glimpse into what it would be like to be an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient. It wasn’t always pretty and fun to read, but it was good, and I got a lot out of it.