Genova’s sensitive exploration of this insidious disorder provides the basis for the story Still Alice and details its heartbreaking outcome. We travel with Alice and her family through each phase of the disease, its effect on the brain, and how it changes her life and that of her family. The author holds a degree in neuroscience from Harvard herself and is able to tell the story through Alice’s point of view which provides a fascinating perspective.
As the disease progresses and it becomes apparent that her career is over, Alice’s family undergoes profound changes also. Two of her three children decide to undergo testing to ascertain whether or not they carry the gene that will result in their developing the disease. Alice’s relationship with her third child, daughter Lydia, changes also, but not necessarily in a bad way. A new acceptance seemed to develop between the two that was absent before because Lydia didn’t want to go to college and chose a career in acting instead. Mid-way through the book you have:
“She could see Lydia’s history as well, but somehow this woman sitting across from her wasn’t inextricably connected to her memories of her youngest child. This made her uneasy and painfully aware that she was declining, her past becoming unhinged from her present. And how strange that she had no problem identifying the man next to Anna as Anna’s husband, Charlie, who had entered their lives only a couple of years ago. She pictured her Alzheimer’s as a demon in her head, tearing a reckless and illogical path of destruction, ripping apart the wiring from ‘Lydia now’ to ‘Lydia then,’ leaving all the Charlie connections unscathed.” (Page 200)
I loved the way this family came together after overcoming their initial anxiety. Even her husband John, who grieved for the loss of the woman he knew, finally was able to come to terms with their new life. I’m not sure this is the way every family would be able to handle this and the author concluded the story before Alice became totally incontinent, unable to communicate, completely bedridden or in the last throes of the disease. At the end of the book, she realizes all she’s lost:
“I used to be someone who knew a lot. No one asks for my opinion or advice anymore. I miss that. I used to be curious and independent and confident. I miss being sure of things. There’s no peace in being unsure of everything all the time. I miss doing everything easily. I miss being part of what’s happening. I miss feeling wanted. I miss my life and my family. I loved my life and my family.” (Page 285)
So very sad. Highly recommended. ( )