Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Still Alice

336 pages

     I won this lovely book from Kay at My Random Acts of Reading and my gratitude is deep as I couldn't put this book down.  I read it in like three days and cried through the last half.  I am a teary person-always have been-I can tear up at commercials, movies or while talking about my children. This book did it for me.  I adored Alice's character. 


     Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build.  At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children.  When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life-and her relationship with her family and the world-forever. (from the book)

My thoughts:

     I'm aging; when I look at my hands I see my mother's hands and my face is forever changed. Yet with moderate excercise  and good nutritional choices I maintain a healthy weight and don't have one gray lock in my long hair-yet I am aging everyday.  I know it and it is okay and Alice feels the same.  She's only fifty-just beginning to enjoy the second half of her life.  Her kids are grown and she is proud of them.  Lydia, her youngest, is her only major sore spot as her daughter chooses acting as a career, taking theory classes and refuses higher education.  The angst this creates in Alice is a marvelous vehicle for her and Lydia's relationship to achieve huge growth throughout the story.
      Years ago when I was a high school student I took care of a woman with Alzheimer's disease, although at that time, I don't think they used that title.  I can't remember her name (I know, that looks bad) but her husband hired me to spend evenings with her while he played in a jazz combo for events around our small MN town.  The woman was healthy on the outside but very confused and agitated on the inside.  Soon after her husband would leave and while I was preparing dinner for her she would go into their room and get all dressed up (pretty dress, pearls, heels) and go stand by the door and wait for him.  When I would call her to dinner she would question who I was and why I was there.  It was a bit of a circus and I always felt overwhelmed.  Her husband eventually had to put her in a nursing home. 

     Reading Still Alice brought those feelings of agitation back again as I experienced first hand the memory loss that terrifies Alice.  She's a strong woman and when she experiences a few unexplainable lapses Alice seeks medical help and keeps it all to herself for quite awhile.  Her husband, John, who loses his glasses and car keys all the time can't believe this is happening to Alice, and while he is a good husband, he really can't believe it is happening to him!  Why should his life change?  So while we experience life first hand through Alice's narration we do get a sense of how the rest of the family is affected by Alice's diagnosis.  I enjoyed the connection between Alice and her children best with each child having a very separate reaction at first.  I would never sit down and read a nonfiction book about Alzheimer's but reading Genova's I felt like a got a detailed look at how this disease shows no mercy to a person's  memory. 

     Honestly, this book will make you laugh and cry as you become one with Alice and her memory.  Here is a quote which finds Alice speaking to a doctor about her symptoms:
I've been having lots of problems remembering, and it doesn't feel normal.  I'm forgetting words in lectures and conversations, I need to put 'cognitive class' on my to-do list or I might forget to go teach it, I completely forgot to go to the airport for a conference in Chicago and missed my flight.  I also didn't know where I was for a couple of minutes in Harvard Square, and I'm a professor at Harvard, I'm there everyday.  (61)
     She struggles  comes to terms with herself and finds out her own meaning of family through her journey.  I could give quote after quote of funny stuff, like sitting in her lecture hall as a student, instead of teaching the class but I'd prefer you take my word for it and read this book.  Hopefully, we will find a cure for this difficult disease and I cross my fingers everyday that my own forgetful  mother does not have Alzheimer's...I already get a little agitated (without peace) when she tells me a story, three or four times.  Thank you Kay for hosting this giveaway~I loved Alice's tale.

  5/5 stars
Highly recommended for all adults
**As I was going back into the book to look up names I found so many good little quotes-I may have to reread this one.**
Other Reviews:

Missy's Book Nook
Dolce Bellezza


Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm pleased that STILL ALICE touched you so deeply! I know that it is a difficult read for almost everyone, not because it is hard, but the subject is terrifying. I feel very, very strongly that it is a most important book, however. Having dealt with dementia and Alzheimer's in both my parents, I still learned things. I think Lisa Genova did a marvelous job describing what it could be like for this woman - a victim so young. And yet, it's not all awful. There are definite silver linings around the dark clouds. Trust me. I know. Thanks for reading it and sharing your thoughts. :-)

Marce said...

This is an all time favourite now. It was amazing how Lisa Genova researched and made this a touching story with details to learn about Alzeimers.

I was truly touched.