Still Alice
Lisa Genova

Simon & Schuster
Trade Paperback/384 pages
ISBN: 1-439170045
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"… is mesmerizing, full of terrible beauty."

Still Alice: A heartbreaking, sad and insightful look at the progression Alzheimer’s.

It started with small things, forgetting words in the middle of a speech, forgetting where she lived when she went running in her own neighborhood and misplacing things. It didn’t occur to fifty-year-old Dr. Alice Howland, a professor of psychology at Harvard, that she faced anything worse than the problems all women face with the advent of menopause. She was wrong, so very wrong.

The worst part for Alice after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease is telling her family. She wants to continue to teach as long as possible. At the end of the year, Alice has no idea just how much the rapid onset of the disease had affected her teaching and her family. Alice’s husband John, a professor of biology at Harvard, wants a quick answer, a magic bullet to fix things, but there is none.

As the disease progresses, Alice’s life falls apart. There is no way to know who will still be around when Alice no longer recognizes those nearest and dearest to her.

Tackling a subject like Alzheimer’s, especially early onset Alzheimer’s disease, in a fictional novel is a monumental task that Lisa Genova accomplishes with poignant results. Still Alice is a powerful story of the breakdown of an intelligent mind and the repercussions it has on her work and family. Genova never lets the story sag, and she doesn’t resort to literary sleight of hand or emotional blackmail to make her point.

The slow loss of Alice’s mind is fascinating and terrible, magical and heartbreaking. Above all, it is moving and touching. Alice’s family responds with denial, selfishness, anger and sadness. No one comes through unscathed, and their responses are very human. Still Alice is powerful and honest. Alice’s story is mesmerizing and full of terrible beauty. There are no easy answers, and Genova doesn’t give them, instead relying on remarkable insight into a deteriorating mind and plain truth to share Alice’s tale.


Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell