While I don’t read near as extensively as Christine has been known to do, every once in a while I come across a book I just can’t put down. Still Alice by Lisa Genova was most definitely a page turner. I’m always on the lookout for a novel that makes me think and this poignant story of memory and commitment caught my eye several times before I finally picked it up. Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, a Harvard Psychology professor, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The novel follows her through the progression of her disease.
In the beginning, the signs are small. Losing her keys and getting lost on a run. These could be everyday occurences for someone with too much on her plate, but the way Genova describes the moments makes it so much more. She really allows the reader to experience Alice’s worry, and eventual fear, as her memory continues to fail her. It also comes to light that as Alice’s awareness continues to decline, she is not holding on nearly as well as she believes. The once revered educator is informed that she has repeated the same lectures and skipped others, eventually forcing her to resign. The irony of a woman devoting her life to psychology slowly losing her ability to think and process is heartbreaking. However, it also makes the book all the more interesting through the devices and plans she constructs to fight her disease.
What made this book so intriguing to me was the variety of perspective the author gives through Alice’s eyes. For example, her children all must come to terms with the possibility that one day Alzheimer’s may be their own reality as well. Do they want to do the testing to see if they hold the same gene marking their predisposition for the disease, knowing that even if it’s negative their futures are still uncertain? How does it change Alice’s daughter’s desire to have children she could pass it on to? While the effect Alzheimer’s has on her children is hard to bear, Alice’s relationship with her husband becomes truly tragic.
As Alice comes to terms with the degeneration of her memory, her will to live falters. She doesn’t want to be a burden to her family and can’t stand the thought that, one day, she won’t recognize any of them. Her husband fights hard to keep the Alice he loves around and his anger is obvious as more of her is taken from him. At first, I admit, I hated his character and thought he was inconsiderate and cruel to ALice. However, throughout the book it’s the little things he does that won me over as a reader. There’s once moment in particular that made me put down the book and cry. Alice falls asleep reading and when she wakes up she can’t find her book. She tears apart the house looking for it and her husband leaves. Now at first I was furious that he would take off while she’s so obviously frustrated, but he soon returns to the movie adaptations of the books she loves. It was at that point I realized that despite everything that was happening he still loved what was left of his wife. I don’t want to give away the ending so I will just say that it his his love that saves Alice.
Yes, this book will make you cry. It will also make you think. You’ll notice the small things you do everyday that you may take for granted like making coffee, driving home, or even reading. If you’re looking for a thought provoking and quick read curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, a box of tissues, and Still Alice.