Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. Read more...
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Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and terrifying, "Still Alice "captures in remarkable detail what it's like to literally lose your mind...
Reminiscent of "A Beautiful Mind," "Ordinary People, " and "The Curious Incident of the Dog" "in the Night-time," "Still Alice" packs a powerful emotional punch and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 31.
- Review Date: 2008-10-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Neuroscientist and debut novelist Genova mines years of experience in her field to craft a realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland has a career not unlike Genova's—she's an esteemed psychology professor at Harvard, living a comfortable life in Cambridge with her husband, John, arguing about the usual (making quality time together, their daughter's move to L.A.) when the first symptoms of Alzheimer's begin to emerge. First, Alice can't find her Blackberry, then she becomes hopelessly disoriented in her own town. Alice is shocked to be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (she had suspected a brain tumor or menopause), after which her life begins steadily to unravel. She loses track of rooms in her home, resigns from Harvard and eventually cannot recognize her own children. The brutal facts of Alzheimer's are heartbreaking, and it's impossible not to feel for Alice and her loved ones, but Genova's prose style is clumsy and her dialogue heavy-handed. This novel will appeal to those dealing with the disease and may prove helpful, but beyond the heartbreaking record of illness there's little here to remember. (Jan.)
When your mind is your enemy
Harvard psychology professor Dr. Alice Howland is only 50 years old when she begins to experience frequent and unusual memory loss. A BlackBerry forgotten at dinner, a mysterious item on her to-do list and an out-of-town conference she forgot to attend all make Alice wonder what's happening to her.
First-time novelist Lisa Genova self-published Still Alice before the book was picked up by Pocket Books. But the knowledge she has gained from earning a doctorate in neuroscience and serving as an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association, shines throughout this debut, a realistic portrayal of an intelligent, independent woman facing early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
It's painful to witness scene after scene of forgetting, particularly as Alice awaits and then denies her diagnosis. But through those incidents, Alice's plight evokes the reader's sympathy and understanding. Still Alice tracks her mental decline over a two-year period, revealing how early-onset Alzheimer's affects Alice's relationships, career and sense of self. During the disease's rapid progression, she becomes more and more dependent on her husband and three grown children to guide her through each day. Once-mundane tasks become to-do list fodder. Alice makes notes to remind herself to take medication every morning and evening. She's even prone to forget to teach classes.
Alice discovers who she is and what her relationships mean as the disease advances. Memories fall away, but the heart remains. And though the novel is heavy on explanation of the disease's effects, Genova writes in clear language that even the least medically inclined will understand.
Those who have lost a loved one to Alzheimer's will find particular comfort in this sensitive tale. The novel portrays both the patient's and the family's struggle with Alzheimer's disease in a more heart-rending way than medical literature ever could.
Carla Jean Whitley writes fron Birmingham, Alabama.