Sunday, August 16, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I assumed this would be a difficult read and I was correct. I had heard about this because of the movie starring Julianne Moore of the same name and all I knew is that it was about a woman with Alzheimer's Disease.  It's so much more than that.

I thought this would be difficult to read simply because my dad had dementia. He had Parkinson's Disease and no one told us that Parkinson's Induced Dementia was a thing until that thing happened. Dementia in Parkinson's patients is very similar to Alzheimer's and just as upsetting when watching someone you love disappear. So, I guess what I am saying is, this book was very hard to read for me. My dad has been gone for almost six years and this brought a lot back.

Alice Howland is a linguistics professor at Harvard, one the most brilliant minds in the business, when she starts noticing that she is forgetting words, misplacing items, etc. All of those symptoms are easy to write off as stress or fatigue. Alice only became worried when she went for a run in Harvard Square, a place she has lived at for over 25 years, and became lost.  She went to her doctor and asked to see a neurologist. Many tests later and she had the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 50.

Still Alice is very interesting in how her story is told. Her neurologist tells her in the beginning "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on." which struck me since this novel is Alice's point of view so we wonder if the story is reliable. I think it is because it is heartbreaking and terrifying. Walking with Alice as her memory declines rapidly is not for the weak and her family, her children, are by her side through it all. I very much worried about her husband, John, who did not seem to want to accept the diagnosis nor want to be around to see the decline.

There's nothing to spoil, per se, but I cannot do justice to this book with my words. It's an important book to read as nearly everyone will be, or has been, touched by Alzheimer's or dementia in their life. Standing in the shoes of someone who is losing their memory, losing their mind, is something everyone should do... once.

The thought of my dad feeling as helpless and confused as Alice describes breaks my heart all over again.

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