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Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice (original 2007; edition 2009)

by Lisa Genova

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3,5322941,497 (4.23)301
Title:Still Alice
Authors:Lisa Genova
Info:Pocket Books (2009), Edition: 1st Thus., Paperback, 292 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007)

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Showing 1-5 of 279 (next | show all)
This book has been on my shelf for several years, waiting patiently for me to be ready to read it.

The story is told from the point of view of Alice, a professor at Harvard. She is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. We watch as she and her family struggle with the diagnosis. We watch as she loses her capability to remember and process things as she descends into dementia.

I watched my mom descend into dementia too, which is why I knew this book would be hard and why it's taken me seven years to read it.

My mom's situation was slightly different, just as everyone's experience with any illness is unique. My mom had a stroke in August of 2003. At the time she'd been living alone, managing her very brittle diabetes with frequent blood sugar checks and administering her own insulin at each meal by determining the appropriate dose based on her blood sugar levels.

The stroke affected her memory, judgment and language. When she was in the hospital right after the stroke, and my brother and I were with her, she asked why people kept sticking her with pins. She didn't remember that she even had diabetes, let alone that she had been managing it on her own. At that moment, my brother and I knew that that was the end of her living alone.

In the following year and a half, she recovered some memory and language, and reached somewhat of a plateau. She remembered that she had diabetes, but couldn't remember exactly how to manage it.

And then her memory started getting worse. Her neurologist started her on Aricept and Nameda, just like Alice did in the book, but they didn't seem to help much. Every time we saw the neurologist, she'd administer the ten question test, asking mom if she knew where she was, knew who the president was, knew what season it was. Mom did worse every time.

This was abnormal from a stroke recovery point of view. They did an MRI and she hadn't had another "event" (stroke). Dementia seemed to be setting in. The neurologist didn't make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. At some point, she said, dementia is dementia, no matter what the cause.

For my mom the dementia progressed relatively quickly. In the last three months of her life she forgot how to use the bathroom. She forgot who we were. She talked about waiting for her parents (who had been dead for decades) coming to come pick her up. At the end, she slipped into a coma and died a few days later.

It was heartbreaking to watch my mom lose her memory, her faculties, and ultimately her life.

It's hard for anyone close to someone with dementia, as Still Alice illustrates so well. Lisa Genova sheds light on Alzheimer's and living with dementia, illuminating the struggle for Alice herself, as well as her family. Well done.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about two other books about dementia, The 36-Hour Day and Contented Dementia. You can read that post here (sorry for the copying and pasting): http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-do-you-spell-alzhei... ( )
  lisalangford | Oct 1, 2015 |
I have read many books, some that are forgettable, some that I can't put down, and some that I know I will haunt me. This is one that will stay with me for a long time, a very long time.

Alice, a brilliant professor, loses her place on a jog- suddenly the streets surrounding her home shift to an unknown terrain. And when they shift back to the familiar she realizes that her life has also shifted. This book walks with Alice to the first doctorʻs visit, to the first neurological test and to get the moment that her terror is named- Alzheimer's. At each of these moments Alice is both her old self and this unknown new apparition that Alzheimer's is creating.

This isn't a melodrama or a feels-good-happy-ending kind of story where the family lines up and cheers for this poor mom. Instead, John, her husband, is sort of an ass - avoiding conversations and pretending that HIS life needs to not change. Lydia, the youngest daughter, on the other hand, connects with her mom in a way she never could with the old Alice. I liked the reality of the mixed reactions and emotions- because it allowed me to confront my own avoidance and patronizing habits.

Although this is a deeply sad story it is more than that. Walking hand and hand with the loss of her memory Alice speaks out for those with Alzheimer's in a refreshing way. She advocates for herself and others even speaking at a conference. This is not the story of a battle but of a rugged path that absolutely no one would choose!

Through it all Alice is herself with an Alzheimer's coat wrapping her more and more tightly.

Read it! ( )
1 vote kebets | Sep 14, 2015 |
NNCC selection for July. This is the story of a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer's and how it steals her life from her. I admit this sounded depressing and all the reviews saying it was a great book weren't really convincing me. I was pleasantly surprised by it, the read was easy and the characters were likable.
There were parts that made me tear up, especially when it comes to her interactions with her husband. The ending left me with so many unanswered questions, but I understand why. The book was from Alice's perspective and she would be unable to answer those questions at that stage in her disease, so the go unanswered in the book. I liked it, it was well written and drew me in.
For additional reviews please see my blog at www.adventuresofabibliophile.blogspot.com
  Serinde24 | Sep 5, 2015 |
I put off reading this book because Alzheimer's runs in my family and I have a hard time thinking about my possibilities of getting it. That said, however, I'm glad I read it. I think the author did an excellent job of mixing scientific explanation with personal details. Alice is 50 when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. We hear the story from her point of view and it is devastating. To be aware of losing one's "mind" without always remembering that one is doing so is a terrible experience to imagine. Her family is also affected in different ways and are conflicted in how to deal with Alice. It is all very real and well done. ( )
  terran | Sep 3, 2015 |
At times an emotional and difficult book to read but extremely worthwhile and captivating. The story is narrated in the third person but looks exclusively from Alice's perspective, a fifty year old Harvard professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. As a consequence, the emotions which Alice feels, as her condition deteriorates, offer a raw sadness laid bare for all. It is something that can happen to you or I, our family members, friends. Lisa Genova makes this feeling known to us through the power of her writing.

One area which stood out for me was her portrayal of husband John. I have always worked with family carers in one way or another (for several years I worked at a carers centre providing emotional support). I have always empathised and supported carers. But the way in which the book was written, coming from the perspective of someone with Alzheimer's, was so well done I felt I wanted to shout at John for what he did or didn't do, when, in actual fact, he was going through just as much as Alice, clearly having difficulty coming to terms with seeing the wife he knew slip away. However, we were seeing through Alice's eyes and so we didn't get to hear his thoughts or feelings.

I couldn't put down the book yet at the same time I wanted to take a break from the emotions which the author seems to translate so easily. A much recommended but very emotional read. ( )
  lilywren | Aug 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 279 (next | show all)
When looking for a publisher for this story, Genova was often told that it would only appeal to the Alzheimer's community. So, she self-published and self-marketed. Word of mouth spread about the universal appeal of Still Alice, and she gained an agent, a publisher, a top-10 spot on The New York Times and Globe and Mail bestseller lists, and some high praise for her compassionate page-turner. It's well deserved.
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Even then, more than a year earlier, there were neurons in her head, not far from her ears, that were being strangled to death, too quietly for her to hear them. Some would argue that things were going so insidiously wrong that the neurons themselves initiated events that would lead to their own destruction. Whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.
In Memory of Angie.
For Alena
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Alice sat at her desk in their bedroom distracted by the sounds of John racing though each of the rooms on the first floor.
Even then, more than a year earlier, there were neurons in her head, not far from her ears, that were being strangled to death, too quietly for her to hear them. Some would argue that things were going so insidiously wrong that the neurons themselves initiated events that would lead to their own destruction. Whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0595440096, Paperback)

"Powerful, insightful, tragic, inspirational…and all too true." Alireza Atri, Massachusetts General Hospital Neurologist

“Readers…are artfully and realistically led through…a window into what to expect, highlighting the importance of allowing the person with the disease to remain a vibrant and contributing member of the community…" Peter Reed, PhD, Director of Programs, National Alzheimer's Association

“With grace and compassion, Lisa Genova writes about the enormous white emptiness created by Alzheimer’s in the mind of the still-too-young and active Alice. A kind of ominous suspense attends her gathering forgetfulness, and Genova puts us, sympathetically, right inside her plight. Somehow, too, she portrays the family’s response as a loving one, and hints at the other hopeful, helpful response that science will eventually provide.” Mopsy Kennedy, Improper Bostonian

"An intensely intimate portrait of Alzheimer's seasoned with highly accurate and useful information about this insidious and devastating disease." Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, co-author, Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer's Disease

“Her (Alice's) thought patterns are so eerily like my own...amazing. It was like being in my own head and like being in hers.” James Smith, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, age 45

“...something for the world to read.” Jeanne Lee, author of Just Love Me: My Life Turned Upside-Down By Alzheimer’s

“A laser-precise light into the lives of people with dementia and the people who love them.” Carole Mulliken, Co-Founder of DementiaUSA

"A work of pure genius. This is the book that I and many of my colleagues have anxiously awaited. The reader will journey down Dementia Road in a way that only those of us with Dementia have experienced. Until now." Charley Schneider, author of Don't Bury Me, It Ain't Over Yet

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Feeling at the top of her game when she is suddenly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease, Harvard psychologist Alice Howland struggles to find meaning and purpose in her life as her concept of self gradually slips away.

(summary from another edition)

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