Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Release Date: September 6, 2009
Still Alice is the somber tale of Dr. Alice Howland, a Harvard psychology professor, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of fifty one. When Alice begins to forget words in her presentations and then gets disoriented while on a run, she speculates that she may be experiencing memory lapses due to menopause. However, after several doctor’s visits, she is told that she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The novel follows Alice as she slowly regresses from an exuberant professor to a woman who is merely a shell of herself, experiencing all of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Still Alice also explores the family dynamic after such a harrowing diagnosis. Alice’s husband, John, and their three adult children, Anna, Tom, and Lydia, all react differently to the diagnosis but attempt to support Alice as her condition worsens.
The entire novel is told from Alice’s point of view and at times, her perspective is heartbreaking. As Alice begins to regress due to her Alzheimer’s, the reader is exposed to all of her thoughts and fears. The reader is inside of Alice’s head as she fears for the future, agonizes over leaving her position at Harvard, and finally when she is frantic and confused in the later stages of her Alzheimer’s. It’s also interesting to see how Alice’s speech patterns and thought processes change as the novel develops. I think that Genova did an amazing job writing from this perspective and she really brought Alice to life.
I really enjoyed all of the characters. I thought that Alice was a very interesting woman and felt horrible for her once her symptoms began to emerge. When she would repeat herself in conversations or forget who someone was, I genuinely felt sad for her. I liked Alice’s husband, John, and I thought that his response to Alice’s diagnosis seemed authentic. Out of Alice’s three adult children, I liked Lydia the most. I thought that although Alice and Lydia’s relationship was strained, it was the most interesting.
I absolutely loved this book, but I thought that the ending left the relationship between Alice and John up in the air. I wish there had been a bit more closure in terms of the state of their marriage. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease and although this was an incredibly sad story, I thought that it was beautifully written. Genova did a wonderful job creating a story focused on such a delicate topic and I thought the novel was incredibly moving.
I would highly recommend this book. It’s a quick and easy read, but there are some medical terms throughout the book. Since Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease, the novel discusses in scientific detail what is happening in different portions of the brain. Alice is also a psychology professor at Harvard, so her thoughts in the beginning are highly educated and scientific. I don’t think that this should be a deterrent and in fact, I thought it added to the story.
If you have read Still Alice, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Still Alice on Amazon, please click here.
The film adaptation of Still Alice is showing in select theaters and will be released nationally Friday, February 13.