Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice Howland has a wonderful life.  She has three grown children, a loving hard-working husband, and she herself is a well established Professor at Harvard.  At age fifty, she is not really too surprised when she starts to forget where she left things like her keys and her Blackberry.  She is a little more concerned when she gets lost on the Harvard campus that she has always known very well, but a brief Google check regarding menopause brings up forgetfulness as one of the symptoms.  Still… it doesn’t hurt to see a doctor…

Alice is stunned when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  Certainly an active woman like herself, can beat this.  Yet what follows is a struggle of losing ones memories…. a family in despair and crisis, and a woman who is fighting the biggest battle of her life, just to be…

still Alice.

Lisa Genova has also written Left Neglected about a brain injury and Love Anthony will be out in 2013, about a boy with autism.

I didn’t want to read this book.

When my book club voted this as our May book club read, I was not thrilled.  There are few things that truly frighten me, but the thought of not knowing who you are, or fearing people you have known all your life as they have become strangers in your mind – truly frightens me.

When I posted I was reading this on my sidebar under the Bookies tab, many readers shared what an amazing read it was, and honestly – that helped me dip cautiously into this book.

I read it… in one sitting.

Author Lisa Genova wrote something wonderful here.  Brilliantly, the story is told from Alice’s perspective.  Seeing Alzheimer’s through her eyes was both frightening and informing.  I cringed when she introduces herself to the same woman twice, having forgotten she already had done so.  When she is lost inside her own home desperately looking for the bathroom, my heart breaks for her. 

Page by page as a reader, you are right there with Alice through good days and bad.  This fictional story flowed so well from the very start – moments of laughter and yes, moments of tears…. this book is a MUST READ.  If you are in a book club, it is an incredible discussion book as well, with questions in the back of the book.

I knew when I had read this book that our book club discussion was going to be deep and it was going to be good.  There was so much to talk about!  This week when we met and I started asking the questions from the book, I hardly needed to say a word… the conversation flowed.  The ladies in our group has much to say about Alice’s journey, her family, and their own personal connection to Alzheimer’s as well.

This is one of those reviews where we didn’t even really need the questions.  The book brought memories of people to our review that I had never met but wish I had.  Grandparents were discussed, some still living with the disease, and some who have passed on.  How Alzheimer’s affects each person differently was amazing.  Some reverted to a much younger time in their life, believing they lived somewhere else.  Others who had English as a second language – reverted to their first language.  Some remembered a spouse, but could not recall anyone else. 

And as in most Bookies events there was food.

Alice mentions enchilada’s early in the book so chicken enchiladas were a must!
Fresh salads and toppings!
Risotto with spinach for memory!
Blueberries and dark chocolate are mentioned in the book as brain and memory enhancers

Some interesting facts about Still Alice:  Still Alice was initially a self published book, and approved by the Alzheimer’s Society.  STILL ALICE debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller list and has spent 40 weeks on that list. It won the 2008 Bronte Prize and the 2011 Bexley Book of the Year, and it was nominated for the 2010 Indies Choice Debut Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association. It was the #6 Top Book Group Favorite of 2009 by Reading Group Choices, a 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, a 2009 Indie Next pick, a 2009 Borders Book Club Pick, and a 2009 Target Book Club pick. There are over a million copies in print, and it has been translated into 25 languages.  (as seen and noted on the authors website)

A few other thoughts on this book:

Musings Of A Bookish Kitty

A Novel Menagerie

Always With A Book

Care’s Online Book Club

Thank you to our local Library and their “Book Club In A Bag” program!

Amazon Rating

Goodreads Review

Want to listen to it on audio?

29 thoughts on “Still Alice by Lisa Genova

  1. I have been wanting to read this one for a long time…and I even have the author’s second book, Left Neglected, resting patiently on Sparky.

    I am pretty sure that I’ll love both books, and the hesitation is about the issues that I know I’ll have feelings…and fears about.

    At some point, we all fear this kind of thing, especially if our ability to recall and communicate is precious to us. As it is to most people.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…and food!

  2. I need to move this one to the top of the stacks. I admit I am feeling like you were but picked it up and brought it home and haven’t pushed myself to read it. I hope to soon!

  3. I am so glad you loved this, it is an all time favourite now. I think I need to reread and do a review on my blog. My dad has Alzheimer’s and this book helped me to understand from his point. So very well done.

    I also read Left Neglected and loved it. Lisa G has an amazing way of teaching through her written style. I look forward to new works ahead for you.

    I can see this being a wonderful book club read.

  4. I was able to attend a book reading and met the author – it was a fun day for me. Genova is a wonderful author and I love how she explores brain issues fictionally but with great command of how to research and bring the characters to life.

    1. I would agree with that Kathy, it took me until the last day before book club to pick it up. That was nice was that it starts out as any other fiction read about a busy family, and slowly eases us into the later stages.

  5. I am so glad to read that you enjoyed this book! My grandmother died of Alzheimers and now an aunt has it as well. I fear the disease but this book was a must read for me. If anything, it gave me a personal insight into what my loved ones may have gone through and may still be experiencing. For me, it was terrific! I laughed, I cried, and I enjoyed every minute of it!

  6. Sheila, it took me quite a while to read this book after my father died. I was glad I finally did though – it was a couple of years ago – I recommended it to the lady who ran the support group my mother and I attended. Then when my mother’s dementia got so bad, I recommended it to the director her memory care center as well. Told her that families of Alzheimer’s/dementia patients would find it tough to read, but enlightening. I suspect that in upcoming years, almost every family will be dealing with aspects of Alzheimer’s/dementia. Glad you and your group decided to discuss it. It may be helpful to someone at a later time.

  7. I have this book on the shelf, but couldn’t convince my book club to read it. Most of us are right around 50, and they thought this might be too scary/disturbing. Will go ahead and read it on my own, then pitch it again… sounds excellent!

  8. I know you were afraid this novel would be too sad for you – I’m so glad that you dove in and ended up enjoying it. I loved it, too. It all feels so real that at times it felt like a memoir to me.

    I bet it would be great for a book group! I read it on my own but would have loved to discuss it when I finished.

    I would love to read Genova’s 2nd novel, Left Neglected, but haven’t gotten around to it yet 🙂


  9. I just skimmed your review to get an idea what you thought, and–yay! You’ve given me hope! This seems like such a difficult book to read, I’m just not looking forward to starting it for my book club. I might get through it in the gray days of winter, but I just like to read fluff in the spring/summer!

    1. Jen, the author really handles it well where it never gets dark or depressing. Now I am speaking from a perspective of not having to deal with this in anyone close to me, I know for those in my book club who dealt with it first hand, while they appreciated the book it was a bit harder for them.

  10. I just finished listening to and writing a review on Still Alice and absolutely loved the book. I hope I can talk my book club into reading it but we are a group of 50 some year olds and this book hits very close to home. I myself put off reading it for a long time for the same reason. So scary! What a book!

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