Monday, September 14, 2009
TITLE: STILL ALICE
AUTHOR: LISA GENOVA
Wow, this must be one of the saddest books I've ever read. I've been known to read stories with tears in my eyes in the past. But I can't remember the last time I had tears streaming down my cheeks, leaving me unable to read on while finding myself pleading with the universe to please spare me and those I love Alice's fate.
This is the story of Alice, who is 49 and a Harvard professor when she finds herself dealing with disturbing lapses of memory and periods of complete disorientation.
When she is subsequently diagnosed with early-unset Alzheimer's this is devastating, not just for her but for all those around her too. Not only because those who love her have to watch her dreadful decline, but also because this is a genetic disorder, with all the potential consequences that holds.
The reader is with Alice and her family as she fairly quickly loses her grip on her memories, her independence and her life. And we watch as the individually and together have to adjust their lives, expectations and prospects.
The big question that remained for me is, should the ones close to the Alzheimer's sufferer completely sacrifice their own lives, even when the sufferer won't be able to recognize them or appreciate their efforts? Or should they try to retain their own routines?
I for one don't know, and I hope I'll never have to make that decision. And I'm glad that the book didn't give a moral judgment in that respect. I think, in real life, as in the book, that is a very individual issue with various "right" answers depending on who the question is posed to.
This is a book and story that will stay with me for a very long time.