Because my day job is committed to ensuring its employees receive adequate training to succeed, I had the fortunate opportunity to be a part of a class with required reading. Yes, you read that right. REQUIRED READING. (Shush! No bad words on this blog!)
But it actually was pretty great. I got back into the groove of reading again, even if most of the books were non-fiction and I had no time for the fiction book I started after Christmas (I’ll get to you sometime, The Chemist), and it really helped me improve as a person.
Then the final reading assignment was handed out, and I was tasked to read Still Alice by Lisa Genova. (I work in senior care and the class was through a statewide senior care advocacy agency.) If you’re not familiar with the book, as I wasn’t until it was handed to me, it’s about a Harvard professor who gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. And let me tell you, it was LIFE CHANGING. And I don’t say that often.
The book’s pacing was excellent, the characters were believable, and the setting was interesting and purposeful, but what really won the day here was Genova’s choice of point of view. She wrote the book from the viewpoint of Alice, the one with the diagnosis. WOW.
Chances are, you know or know of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps even early-onset Alzheimer’s. If you do, you know just how heartbreaking it is for everyone involved, how hard it can be for those left behind, those struggling to make sense of the situation, and those striving to make the best decisions for their loved one.
But we often (especially those of us in senior care who deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia every single day) can forget about the person with the disease and how it’s affecting them. We could rationalize that they don’t fully comprehend the situation and are “blissfully unaware” of what the disease is stealing from them, but, as Genova so eloquently shows, this is most likely not the case, until they get to a certain point.
The book is heartbreaking, but so is the disease. There is no cure to date, and though some research is promising, the diagnosis is still a terminal one.
But the best part of this book is how it generates empathy in the reader. No longer can we view the “patient” with Alzheimer’s as just another patient – this book helped me to see how that patient is a person with feelings and thoughts, just like the rest of us, and that a disease is slowly stealing from them the very things that make them feel useful, that make them feel human.
I highly recommend this book. There are so many good (read: heart-wrenching) moments in the book, that I can’t name my most memorable (not favorite, as they are all beautifully horrible in their own way). But Genova brought to light this terrible disease in a way that I’ve not seen before.
And that’s what I love about fiction – we can talk all day about how certain things are a certain way, how certain diseases affect certain people, why certain people become the way they are – but we can’t fully grasp the reality of things until we see them in story form. This is the power of story, the power of words, the power of fiction.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova – 5 out of 5 stars (with a standing ovation)
Let me know if you pick up a copy and read it. I would love to know what you think!
*This page may contain affiliate links, which means if you use those links to make a purchase, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you.*