Genre: Fiction, Alzheimer’s

Notes: Alzheimer’s Disease is seriously one of my worst fears.  There is something about losing your identity, your sense of self, and the ability to recognize your loved ones, all while your body and physical health stays fine that’s completely frightening!  And the fact that you can’t fight it – its not like cancer or some other disease with a possible treatment plan.  You just have to sit idly by as your mind slips away.

Review:  Still Alice follows 50 year old Harvard psychology professor Alice Howland as she lives her life as a professor on the top of her field.  She speaks at conferences around the country, gives excellent lectures to her students, and mentors grad students in psycho-linguistics.  By all accounts, Alice Howland is a genius.

But, soon after our introduction to the brilliant Alice, we notice there is distinctly something wrong with Alice.  It starts small: forgetting her blackberry in a restaurant, forgetting a name, and forgetting words.  But when she gets lost in Harvard Square, a place she has been hundreds of times before and only a mile from her home, its obvious something big is wrong. Alice can’t explain this lapse away by aging or menopause or any other legitimate excuse.  This is big.

One of the best aspects of this novel is that we hear this story from Alice’s point of view.  While she’s not the most reliable narrator, (duh, she has Alzheimer’s), we still get sort of omniscient feeling from the reactions of the characters around her and information provided previously in the novel.  I think telling the novel entirely in first person would have been more powerful, but eh.  Genova clearly didn’t.  The best of example of this are five questions Alice asks herself every month to ascertain if she has lost her mind.  When she cannot answer these five simple questions, she will then take an entire bottle of sleeping pills and kill herself.  They range from,  “Where is your office?”  To “when is your daughter’s birthday?”

This self-published novel wasn’t particularly well-written.  It’s not bad, it’s just not great literature.  But the story itself is incredibly powerful and moving.  I cried a little thinking about John (Alice’s husband) and the wife he loses while still seeing her every day.  Alice and John both  struggle with different aspects of the disease, but this book tells us that Alice is still Alice, Alzheimer’s or not.

Bottom Line: Read it if you need a good cry, a book on a plane (I read this while I flew to Los Angeles), or have some personal connection to Alzheimer’s.

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