REVIEW – Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Reviewed by Heather


I saw the movie for this novel first, which is odd for me because I usually read books first and I rarely watch movies. But I was so impressed with the movie and the way Julianne Moore portrayed the title character that I just had to read immediately.

I confess that it took me awhile to get through this book, not because I didn't enjoy the story or it wasn't well written. Quite the opposite. It took me almost a week to get through this book (which is actually a rather short book), because it was so important to me.

My grandmother, who passed away almost a decade and a half ago, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at age 59. Her life was mercifully cut short by Ovarian cancer when she was 65. If you don't understand why I said "mercifully", you need to read this book. It details the life of a very intelligent woman who is shocked to discover at age 50 that she has Early Onset Alzheimer's. Throughout the novel, her progress (or downward spiral) is chronicled through her eyes and it is painful to experience. After watching my grandmother go through this horrifying condition for several years before her death, I suspected that Alzheimer's might quite possibly be the worst fate for any human to endure. After reading this book, I'm certain. You're trapped in an aging, but otherwise healthy body (for most), yet, as time goes on, you become like a child, not remembering, not comprehending, not being able to take care of yourself.

And the people around you can't seem to save you, no matter how much they want to. They watch you slip away, helplessly. They witness their mother or wife or grandfather who once held them and wiped their tears away, become someone they don't even know anymore.

It was painful to watch, and I'm sure even more painful to my grandmother as she eventually didn't understand who we were and why we were in her life and how much we loved her. In the end, all we have are memories and for Alzheimer's patients, those are stolen from them, little by little, until they're nothing but a body with an incapacitated mind. They say death is a great equalizer---I think Alzheimer's is even more so. It doesn't matter if you're a brilliant physicist or a cupcake baker. With Alzheimer's, you're not immune to the fact it's going to steal your mind and your life away.

This is a fabulous novel that I highly recommend to everyone who could possibly be going through something like this. It's nearly impossible to grasp the magnitude of how unbelievably cruel this disease is, but this novel certainly hits as close to the mark as possible.

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