Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Yesterday’s post featured this book, Still Alice as one of the books I want to read this September. The harrowing battle of Alice against Alzheimer’s disease put me in tears as I finished reading it last night. You had to be warned though, this is not like Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook that’s oozing with romance and other intense feels.

What Is It About?Β 

Alice was a Harvard psychology professor for twenty-five years. Outstanding and such a remarkable woman, she began experiencing symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s desease. At first, she attributed it to menopause (she was 51), or maybe the little things she forgot like where she put her Blackberry were just results of over fatigue since she went out of town and the country a lot to give seminars and lectures. But when she was in the Harvard Square and suddenly forgot how she’d go home after living around it for more than two decades, she finally decided to see a neurologist and discovered the inevitable.

What I Think About It

I came across this book when I was doing a research for one of the main characters of the story I am working on. It has to be related to neurology, because I intend for my new book to talk about myasthenia gravis. Little did I know that Still Alice would give me the whole idea of what my book should be. Anyway, as I read this book, my MG journey went back to me, and I could pretty much relate to how Alice felt when she learned that she was suffering from a disease that would steal not only her life, but her memories.

The Stages of Grief

I could feel Alice’s struggle to accept the fact that she was just counting her days before she could no longer do the things she always did. It felt too cruel, and ironic that she should have a neuropsychological disability when she had a magnificent career as a Harvard psychology professor. One by one, her days are being taken away from her, hurting her, and probably her loved ones in the process.

The Support System

The husband.Β I loved the way Lisa Genova showed how differently each of the family members reacts to the situation. John, Alice’s husband seemed too understanding with what’s going on, maybe owing it to the fact that he was a biologist by profession. He even helped Alice get into clinical trials and being the husband, he showed his love and support towards Alice in so many ways. It’s just that John appeared hopeless in the end, and maybe let’s also face the fact that he still has his own life to live that does not only revolve around Alice.

The children. At first Anna and Tom showed their fear – they might be able to catch their mom’s damaged gene that carries dementia. They even argue at some point, willing Alice to remember things the way she should, which I think is something I just don’t understand. I’d take myself for example. That saying it’s all in the mind does not work all the time, especially if you are under attack. If you are in a myasthenic flare, your muscles won’t care that you think you can go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet all by yourself. So no matter how Alice tells herself that she remembers, she would only appear to be fighting a losing battle. I appreciate Lydia, though. As stubborn as she was, it felt like she knew exactly what her mom was going through. I felt her support for her mom more than her other two siblings.

The Support Group. It is a superb idea to speak with someone who exactly knows what’s going on with you. Family members and caregivers might perfectly understand, but it’s a different story when you’re talking to someone who has the same exact experience as you. Creating a support group whose members are Alzheimer’s patients was totally brilliant. It reminded me of when I also helped MGSPI (Myasthenia Gravis Support of the Phils., Inc.) get established.

On Fighting the Losing Battle

Like I said, Still Alice made me go back to my MG journey. From the seemingly endless misdiagnoses and to the numerous neurological questions that felt so silly at the time (repeat these words for me, give me words that starts with s, read this for me and tell me again what it said, etc.). There was also the bargaining stage, when Alice thought of cancer as a better option for this because honestly. It is easier with cancer – we’ll have the weapons to survive like medicines and chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. With Alzheimer’s, the same with myasthenia, there’s easily no way out you’re stuck with it until it consume you to bits.

In Conclusion

I recommend Still Alice to those who want to understand more about Alzheimer’s disease. If you have a family member suffering from dementia, then this book would excellently help you in understanding where they’re coming from. I also saw that this alread has a movie version so I am also going to check that out.

Xoxo,

Beth G.

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