The heart-wrenching tale of 50-year-old Alice Howland and her early onset Alzheimer's diagnosis is narrated eloquently by author Lisa Genova. Alice, a successful linguistics professor at Harvard, is married to John, an equally esteemed Harvard professor, and together they have three grown children. Her biggest worry in life is her youngest daughter's move to L.A. to pursue acting until Alice starts forgetting things. It begins innocuously enough: misplacing her BlackBerry, missing unimportant appointments on her to-do list, searching her mind for tip-of-the-tongue phrases. But when she goes on her familiar daily run through Cambridge, and becomes disoriented just one mile from home, Alice knows something is terribly wrong.
A battery of tests and multiple doctor visits later, her worst nightmare is confirmed she is in the first stages of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Told from Alice's perspective, it's a frighteningly keen insight to the slow deterioration of a debilitating disease. Every nuance of pain, frustration, fear, and sorrow is captured in Genova's voice and she expertly utilizes the pregnant pause, and short, choppy sentences to convey the confusion and pain of Howland's thoughts during testing and diagnosis.
Genova's slight Boston accent lends authenticity to the story, and she doesn't oversell the emotion behind the words. Her transitions between character dialogue are smooth and subtle, but she so embodies the main character Alice, it's hard to remember that it is Genova, and not Howland herself, telling her story. Knowing its being read exactly as it was intended by the author creates an even stronger connection to the work. Equally present is the devastating effect this illness has on Alice's husband, children, and coworkers. And while there's obviously no happy ending in sight, Genova still manages to paint a story of hope, reminding listeners that even in the midst of great loss and suffering, love remains. Colleen Oakley
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At 50 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 begins to grow disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life - and her relationship with her family and the world - forever.
At once beautiful and terrifying, this extraordinary debut novel by Lisa Genova 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.
©2009 Lisa Genova; (P)2009 Simon & Schuster
"After I read Still Alice, I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, 'You have to get this book.'" (Boston Globe)
"With grace and compassion, Lisa Genova writes about the enormous white emptiness created by Alzheimer's." (The Improper Bostonian)
"A masterpiece that will touch lives in ways none of us can even imagine." (Alzheimer's Daily News)
This is my first review after 7 years of membership listening to over 200 books. I am 64 and in good health, but this book raised profound questions for me about mortality, how to leave your family and friends when the time comes, and what to do when the time comes. I laughed and cried throughout, but now I have to figure out what I do when (if) something like this happens to me. I can't remember when a book affected me so profoundly. There are not enought stars in the rating -- it deserves 7.
The book itself was interesting enough although a little technical in places but the narration was so bad that I was tempted to give up on the book altogether. The author's narration was flat and stilted making the reading of her dialogue especially jarring. Her voice was also too young sounding to be believable as a 50 year old woman. Some authors should simply not narrate their own work.
Say something about yourself!
Flat and monotone narration by an inappropriately juvenile, flip, teenage sounding voice. Really wish the author had not done the narration. The story is technical and told from a cold observing distance. It is a perfect example of being talked at about the story rather than seeing it unfold and develop through plot and character driven detail. The frequent use of the word "she" (almost every sentence starts with she) nearly drove me over the edge. To me the book just did not ring true. I know great numbers of listeners loved the book, I am not one of them. A much better look at the experience of Alzheimer's Disease through fiction is the book Elizabeth is Missing.
I'm ambivalent about this book. The author did a pretty good job of capturing 'key' points about what folks experience with Early Onset Alzheimers - so if you prefer a narrative over dry descriptions of what faces Alzheimer sufferers and their families - this book is for you. Yet the book misses the true challenges that face the rest of us. I titled my review "Made for TV Movie" because that's what it appears to be. Well written but superficial.
My complaint is that the author apparently had a 'check list' of points she wanted to cover, so one-by-one she checked them off. Most problems popped up long enough for the author to tell us about them - and then she moved on. The problem rarely occurred in a significant way again. For someone who supposedly suffered from significant language problems, Alice always managed to be fully articulate when necessary. Yeah, right.
Despite Alice's dark plans at one point (another check mark), she didn't really seem to mind having Alzheimer's. Sure it got in the way - but she was not upset for long about anything. There was no fear, no distrust, no chronic anxiety ... it was just a frustrating experience that could be handled and planned for.
I speak from some experience, since my own wife, Barbara has early onset Alzheimer's, although not the fast-acting genetic variety. Comparing Alice to Barbara: Barbara is three years older than Alice. She had symptoms that go back at least six years before diagnosis. Her first mention to her physician about the problems were passed over the first time she made them. It was only a year later that they took us seriously when I accompanied her to a visit, and nearly a year after that before she was diagnosed; ironically the same week as Alice.
Alice has such a perfect life. Professionally successful. Great doctors. Lightening fast diagnosis. Apparently no financial issues. No crazy legal issues. Grown children. (Barbara's were in high school). Everything was manageable except for that pesky disease and her ambitious husband. Good grief, she even got to see and know her first grandchild.
Like Alice, Barbara is loved and cared for. Unlike Alice, Barbara stays in her original home. Her husband is her full-time caregiver, while still working full time.
So nice try, Lisa. I hope you get your TV movie deal.
Although I usually appreciate when the author is involved in an audio book, I think Genova was an inappropriate reader. I was put off by how young her voice sounded.... like that of a 30 year old woman, which I suspect is what Genova is. Her voice didn't have the depth and maturity that was needed for the 50 year old Alice.
For me it was a constant irritant, and I never fully engaged in the book because of this.
A different narrator, ie: Caroline Lee
Have it read by somebody else
Her voice is very monotone and she sounds much younger than the character's age
I have not finished reading it yet but it seems very interesting so far
Thanks Audible for allowing us to return a book!
The story was brilliant and the writing was excellent. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it myself as the narrator/author really did not do it justice. Unfortunately she had minimal depth, inflection, emotion. At times it was quite mundane to listen to. Excellent story though.
No-This might be the third book that I am having a problem finishing because the actual author is narrating. Please, unless you're Amy Poehler or an actual entertainer, please allow Audible to hire a trained reader.
This horrible disease runs in my family and I am always interested to read about different experiences.
I have been listening to books from Audible for over 12 years and have rarely been disappointed with the readers. This is actually the first time I have written a review because I am compelled to beg Audible to stop having the author narrate their own books. When you are used to exceptional readers, these narrators fall short and almost always ruin the experience!
made me cry. a hard story to listen to especially if you have personal experience with Alzheimer's. The story is constructed and the characters are developed so well that it is impossible not to feel a part of Alice's world.
I loved this book. First time I've reviewed an audio book. The writing was excellent. Having a sister diagnosed with this terrible disease made it personal for me. I believe I can understand her challenges so much more after listening to this. Thank you, Lisa Genova
"Excellent insight, weak narration"
Oh how I wish writers would avoid narrating their own books. Lisa Genova is an excellent writer and offers real insight into Alzheimer's. I am witnessing my own mother's awful crawl towards absolute dementia, so at times it wasn't easy to listen to. Nevertheless I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
A beautiful story, touching without being over sentimental. An interesting and thought provoking account that brings to life what it must be like to be affected by Alzheimer's.
Was extremely moving, realistic and grabbed me with every word. Would definitely recommend.
Heartfelt and devastating at the same time
"an easy story to listen to"
a glimpse into a world of people and families trying to cope. Allows more understanding of how someone with dementia struggles.
"Very moving and impactful...."
As a woman of the same age, with many of the same fears about my memory/mental agility and competence, I found Alice's journey powerful and intimate. I was mesmerised by the story and totally immersed in her choices and feelings in relation to others and her family. Very touching story.
Compelling listening. Thoroughly enjoyed this book which was sensitively read making all the characters come alive. The interpretation of the debilitating affects of Alzheimer's was plausible and understandable.
Beautifully written book with so many interesting ideas and insightful views into Alzheimer's. Loved that the author read it but could have shown more expression and emotion in parts of the dialogue.
I did not want to stop listening. It was fantastically written. So true to life, very moving and real. Would strongly recommend
This book is beautiful and inspiring. I loved listening to every word and finished it in but a few days. It is addictive.
Would have benefited by an actress rather than the author reading it but such a good story that it didn't get in the way. The main character didn't suffer the angry accusational outburst that many Alzheimer's suffers show so that helped the listener feel more sympathy toward her.
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