Book Review – Still Alice

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 17, 2013 in Books I'm Reading |

While I was away at the last ELP session, I managed to read an entire book in just a few days.  The book was Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

Still Alice

As soon as I opened the cover, I could not stop reading this book.  It had been on my list to read for a long time, but I was afraid that it would be too sad and depressing to enjoy.

While it was sad, the book offers a realistic look into the decline of a mind affected by Alzheimer’s.  Alice is a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzeimer’s at the age of 50.  The book describes Alice’s struggles in fantastic detail, including the difficult relationship with her husband after her diagnosis.  While Alice begs him to spend her last year of clarity together, her husband clings to the normalcy of his job.  He cannot stand to see his wife become this person that Alzheimer’s has created.

Alice creates a sort of “escape hatch”, entering several questions on her Blackberry and sets them to go off on a regular timer.  If she cannot remember the answers to the questions, she instructs herself to view a file on her laptop that contains instructions for taking an overdose of medication.  However, what she doesn’t understand is that with Alzheimer’s, she won’t realize that she doesn’t know the correct answers to the questions.  And after she places her Blackberry in the freezer, the regular reminders cease.

As her disease progresses, Alice turns from anxious and embarrassed to accepting and even relaxed.  She no longer realizes that what she is experiencing is a disease and it becomes her new normal.

Although not a true story, I believe that this book was so realistic because of the author’s neurologist background.  She used experiences from her patients to colorfully describe how an Alzheimer’s patient sees the world through the lens of the disease.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of my forgetfulness, confusion or disorientation in recent years could be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.  I can only hope that I will never fall victim to this insidious disease.  And if I do…I need a more fool-proof escape hatch.


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