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.
When I started this book I thought it was a true story -- it wasn't until midway the book that I realized, of course, it was not. It was that realistic -- as though coming from the 'patient' herself. It's a more interesting read than it would be if it was written about the more typical age group of the Alzheimer afflicted, but this was about the early onset group, age 50-65 -- in this case, age 50. It is especially both interesting and scary if you are reading it at age 63. However, the talking about it with family members early on is so important as you will learn as reading this wonderful little novel. I recommend it and do not think it will be depressing-- it's not as you would imagine.
I’m delighted that this novel is written by a Neuroscientist. Even though the book is fiction, the science behind the disease diagnosis & treatments is accurate; there is nothing fictitious about it. Lisa Genova also managed to put the readers into the ‘head space’ of Alice, the frustration & fear she felt as her conditions get progressively worse. Alice, a celebrated Harvard Linguistics professor, pride herself on having incredible brain power. To feel her own mental capacity steadily diminishing with each passing day, to watch the reaction & attitude of her family & colleagues whenever she’s in the room gradually eroded her confidence in anything & everything she did. The story is very engaging, however, the way Lisa reads her own book is not. Usually I love books read by the author, but in this case I think the book could have benefited from a less monotoned narrator.
One of my favorite parts of the book was shortly after Alice received her diagnosis, when her condition was not quite perceptible to others yet, Alice wished that
“… she had cancer instead. She'd trade Alzheimer's for cancer in a heartbeat. She felt ashamed for wishing this and it was certainly a pointless bargaining, but she permitted the fantasy anyway. With cancer, she'd have something that she could fight. There was surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was the chance that she could win. Her family and the community at Harvard would rally behind her battle and consider it noble. And even if defeated in the end, she'd be able to look them knowingly in the eye and say good-bye before she left.
Alzheimer's disease was an entirely different kind of beast. There were no weapons that could slay it. Taking Aricept and Namenda felt like aiming a couple of leaky squirt guns in to the face of a blazing fire. John continued to probe into the drugs in clinical development, but she doubted that any of them were ready and capable of making a significant difference for her, else he would already have been on the phone with Dr. Davis, insisting on a way to get her on them. Right now, everyone with Alzheimer's faced the same outcome, whether they were eighty-two or fifty, resident of the Mount Auburn Manor or a full professor of psychology at Harvard University. The blazing fire consumed all. No one got out alive.
And while a bald head and a looped ribbon were seen as badges of courage and hope, her reluctant vocabulary and vanishing memories advertised mental instability and impending insanity. Those with cancer could expect to be supported by their community. Alice expected to be outcast. Even the well-intentioned and educated tended to keep a fearful distance from the mentally ill. She didn't want to become someone people avoided and feared.”
This is an incredibly thought-provoking and absorbing book. It hits frighteningly close to home, I saw many similarities reflected in the book as I watch my grandmother steadily fade away from us over the last few years due to Alzheimer’s disease, and my mother who juggles many things to care for her.
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.
I bought this book based on a recommendation from a friend and I was not disappointed.
Good story with great documentation of the progression of this terrible disease, the people it affects and their families. Not depressing like you might think. The fact that it's a true story makes it even better.
When I wasn't listening to the book, I was thinking about what I had heard. No one in my family has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, but I found the book totally engrossing.
excellent book. my mother lived with me when she was first diagnosed w/alzheimers. i wish i had this book when she was living with me. reading this book answered unanswered questions i had. i highly recommend this book to anyone who is dealing w/a loved one who is suffering w/this awful disease. it helps us understand where they are coming from and what's going on in their minds.
I couldn't stop listening to this book...it is a fascinating and nuanced portrait of the progress of Alice's disease and it's effect on her and her loved ones. Touching, but not maudlin.
During breaks between listening to segments of the book, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the philosophical questions raised along the way. This book really makes you think.
The narrator was a tad annoying at first, but I quickly fell into the story itself and didn't notice her voice at all.
This is a really good choice for an audiobook; I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much had I chosen the print version.
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.
The perspective from her mind
Alice and her actress daughter - they were so connected throughout the story and especially at the end.
When she couldn't find her own bathroom
shutting down the mind
So beautifully written - real - insightful - not so much sad as touching. - wonderful narrative
A story that will speak to anyone who thinks that their work defines them. Terrifying, hopeful, and ultimately a testimony to courage, compassion, love and the questions of what makes us " us". Gave me new appreciation for the disease and the families that live with it. Too compelling to do other than listen nonstop.
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