Still Alice by Lisa Genova – 5/5

Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: 

In Lisa Genova’s extraordinary New York Times bestselling novel, an accomplished professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease learns that her worth is comprised of more than her ability to remember. Now a major motion picture from Sony Pictures Classics starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart! Look for Lisa Genova’s next novel Inside the O’Briens. 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 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. At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

Review:

Still Alice is the most beautiful literary rendition of a person with a mental disorder that I have ever read.  At no point when reading it did I feel that the author was out of their element or producing information that was not accurate.  Every aspect of this novel was flawless, and Lisa Genova’s way of incorporating Alice’s own thoughts with those around her was ingenious.  Through each chapter the reader was able to witness Alice’s declining mental state, while still receiving a firm perspective on those around her.  Genova allowed the reader inside of Alice’s head, and helped the reader realize what dementia patients go through.  They aren’t mindless human beings like many outlets would want you to believe, and they can hear you talking about them even if they don’t full comprehend their surroundings.  While dementia patients do end up needing excess help, they are not children and need to be respected as much as any other adult.  Having been a caregiver for dementia patients myself I know the full extent to what these patients go through, and Still Alice is an excellent way for the wider public to understand this disease and the population it affects.  Her novel also allows for compassion and understanding not just for caregivers of these patients, but for the patients themselves.  I found it particularly appalling that there weren’t any support groups for early onset dementia patients in this novel, and only support groups for their caregivers.  This made me think that perhaps our society equates dementia patients with mindless beings, and doesn’t think that they do need extra emotional support – particularly for those who are still aware that they are worsening, but still have a firm grip on reality.

Now, I know that many people are conflicted about this novel.  Some say that the story is not at all accurate to their experiences, while others say that it is very accurate.  The issue with this is that everyone’s story is different, and Still Alice by no means describes every dementia experience.  Saying that would be like saying that every teen novel describes every teen experience perfectly.  I know that this novel won’t be relatable to everyone who has or knows someone who has dementia, and that should be understood by anyone who reads this novel; but in my personal opinion, this novel is very accurate to my own personal knowledge and experience.

Many times in medical literature such as Still Alice, the reader becomes lost in the medical talk and has a hard time being interested in the work or following along.  But this wasn’t the case with this novel.  Genova clearly wanted her readers to understand is as a story first, and as an informative work of fiction last.  She made learning fun, and this book was hard to put down.  Being able to follow Alice over many of her first months being diagnosed was both heartbreaking and intriguing, and I am happy to say that this work of fiction is understandable enough to even be enjoyed by the upper young adult crowd.  Genova’s work is a true treasure, and I plan on reading her other works.  Her take on mental illness is beautiful, and I admire her knowledge and compassion towards so many people in this category.  She has done them, and those who take care of them, proud.

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