Sunday, April 12, 2009

When to Recommend

Having a wide range of reading friends has proven quite a blessing. One of my strongest needs is to share a reading experience. A book undiscussed is a book half read. I know that some books move me strongly, sometimes strangely, yet they aren't right for all my fellow readers. Some books just need a strong sell. Beyond the old cliche' about not judging a book by its cover, I have also learned not to judge a book by its synopsis.

Lisa Genova's Still Alice may be a hard sell. After all, it's a novel about Alzheimer's disease, not a sexy topic. The book tells the story of a fifty-year-old Harvard professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. Told in third person but from Alice's perspective, the reader feels the awkward loss of words, unpredictable confusions, and awarenes of others' responses.

Despite the dark subject matter, though, the book is lovely. Alice is intelligent, working hard to cope with the inevitable downward spiral. She must deal with John, the husband she loves, also a Harvard professor, and with her three grown children, two of whom choose to be tested for the hereditary traits, one who does not.

The author, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, uses her expertise to make the book real without overburdening the lay reader. I dare say this work contributes a great deal to understanding the victims of this dreadful disease and their families as well. Genova's scientific expertise is matched by her ability to craft an engaging story with characters--complex and believable. Even at her lowest point, I found myself emphathizing for John and the children and cheering for Alice.

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3 comments:

Amber said...

Still Alice is on my list because of my grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's (or possibly some related form of dementia) for the last few years of her life. She had been so smart and witty, and what she became in the end made me sad, especially in those moments when it seemed like she was still "in there" somewhere, and I wondered how aware she was of what was happening to her. Naturally, I turn to fiction, not a textbook, to try and get a glimpse of what was inside her head.

Nancy said...

Amber,
This book does give you that glimpse inside--sometimes painfully, but overall, I liked her spunk and her coping techniques.

Holly said...

Hey Nancy: Fell upon your blog. Since I integrate novels into my abnormal psychology class, would you guess this might be a good one? I'll put it on my list, but alas, I still have the unread books we purchased in D.C. on my nightstand. I do tend to read "work" books more quickly.