There haven't been a lot of book recommendations from me lately because I've been swept up in rereading my favorite book series, Outlander, and considering there are eight books, about 1000 pages each, I've been busy. But this week I finished the most recent Outlander book and changed gears a little bit. My mom, who is my ultimate book recommender, has been telling me for months that I needed to read this book called Still Alice. Then this summer, I learned that someone close to my family was experiencing the same issues as Alice in this book. I think that was the final push I needed to finally pick up this book and see what it was all about.
Alice is an incredibly intelligent, successful Harvard University professor. She is fifty years old and diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. The story is told through her eyes and the author does an excellent job of showing you Alice's confusion while still letting the reader know what's going on. It starts slow with Alice misplacing things or forgetting the name for things, but then she gets lost when walking home from Harvard, where she has worked for 20 years. I can't imagine the panic that would occur if that happened to me! Insane. That begins Alice's conflict with wanting to deny what's happening to her, struggle to be independent, but realizing she's going to need help to deal with this terrible disease.
It's hard to read about Alice's family and try to fathom what they're going through. When you're as young as I am, I think you naturally relate with the other young characters who have to watch their mom or wife decline. Her husband, of course, has a terrible time dealing with it. Nobody should have to watch their loved one disappear at so young an age. I don' t think anyone could ever be ready for such a thing, but 50 is just so young. The author does a good job of establishing who Alice and her husband, John, are before Alice starts to forget. It makes it more tragic because we know that as Harvard professors, they are intellectual people who especially value the power of their minds.
Who Will Like This Book?
Honestly, it's a sad book! I have a lot of friends who don't enjoy sad stories, so if you can't appreciate that, then it's best to stay away from this one. We all know how it ends for Alice, but it's the effect on her family that we have to wonder about.
“She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn't mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, see, they have a beautiful life. Alice liked remembering that.”
― Lisa Genova, Still Alice
I enjoyed this book, even though it was sad. I also felt like I understood something new. I didn't really know that people could get Alzheimer's disease so young. And I didn't know how quickly it progressed. My great grandmother had Alzheimer's disease, but I think at the time I was too young to know the timeline of how it got to the point where she didn't know who I was. It was nice thinking about her again and also sad to think about how frustrating it must have been for her and for anyone who has to go through such a terrible disease. I also felt grateful to have my parents in perfect health. It was a good reminder to appreciate that and how quickly your life could change.
Definitely not my typical book recommendation, but it's a good one and a fast read, so check it out!