Still Alice was my choice for the first month of the IRL book club Sally and I belong to. I heard rave reviews about the movie (and Julianne Moore’s Oscar!) and thought it would be a good book to start off with.
Alice Howland starts noticing small inconsistencies in her memory, and chalking it up to being menopausal, ignores her forgetfulness and goes along with her everyday life as a professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard. Soon Alice’s memory problems start to affect her everyday life and her eventual diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s rocks her life and that of her family. We see how Alice, her husband, three children, co-workers, and students all come to terms with her failing memory and how these relationships change, deepen and shatter.
Lisa Genova wrote a stunning book and made thought-provoking choices, such as having Alice be the narrator, and an unreliable one at that. Genova wound so many small threads throughout the book, with small details that played wonderfully with my memory, forcing me to reread passages to see whether it was my memory failing or Alice’s. The characters of Alice and her daughter Lydia, especially, were multidimensional and painted so realistically, that it makes the reader think of their own family and connect on a deeper level with the book.
John Howland’s actions were a much discussed topic in our book club. I liked that we got to see his reactions and feelings in regard’s to Alice’s diagnosis and decline. Alzheimer’s is not only tough on the patient, but the caretakers too. I enjoyed the fact that John was made human by not being the perfect caretaker. Genova didn’t throw away the character traits she established in John once Alice was diagnosed; you see him struggle with his wants and desires, and how Alice’s disease affects him.
Experiencing this disease through the lens of the sufferer was the best part of Still Alice, for me. This perspective made the book stand out and honestly sometimes it got a little too real for me. But that’s the point, the book is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and it did well.
Recommended for those who…
Have an interest in diseases
Have seen the film version
Are interested in end of life planning
“Be creative, be useful, be practical, be generous, and finish big.”
Did you read Still Alice? Have you seen the movie? Tell us what you thought below in the comments.