||July 13, 2007
Barnes & Noble.com
Still Alice, a novel by Lisa Genova
A hauntingly accurate and powerful portrayal of a young woman's descent into Alzheimer's Disease from the prime of life and the loftiest of cerebral heights.
Alice Howland is a fifty-year-old psychology professor at Harvard University. She initially attributes fleeting episodes of forgetting and disorientation to signs of normal aging or to symptoms of menopause. But as her memory lapses worsen, she becomes disturbed enough to see a neurologist and learns that she has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.
With no cure or treatment that will alter the disease's ultimate outcome, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose in the indeterminate amount of time that she has left before she can no longer continue in her profession, remember the people she loves, recognize herself, and even understand that she has a neurodegenerative disease. She secretly prepares to commit suicide just before she reaches that stage, before becoming a devastating burden to her husband and children, but as she descends further into dementia, she forgets about her plan. Without memory for the past or hope for the future, Alice is forced to live only in the moment, which is in turns beautiful, terrifying, and maddening. As the disease relentlessly progresses, her husband, John, discovers Alice's unfulfilled plan to end her life and must decide whether or not he should honor her wish.
“The book is about a young woman’s descent into dementia. And of course, we see her struggle against this horrifying and inevitable descent. But interestingly, as her cognitive capabilities diminish, we also get to see her grow. As her symptoms worsen, Alice loses her cerebral life at Harvard, where she’d placed her worth and identity, where she’d been valued and respected. Without it, she embarks on a desperate search for answers to questions like ‘Who am I now?’ and ‘How do I matter?” Through an ever-thickening haze of dementia, she fights to hold on to essential pieces of herself and to find meaning and intimacy in previously neglected relationships with family. But has too much time and distance passed in those relationships and has Alice already lost too much of herself to reconnect before she dies?”
Even then, there were neurons in her head, not far from her ears, that were being strangled to death, too quietly for her to hear them. Some would argue that things were going so insidiously wrong that the neurons themselves initiated events that would lead to their own destruction. Whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.
Charley Schneider, author of Don't Bury Me, It Ain't Over Yet
"A work of pure genius. This is the book that I and many of my colleagues have anxiously awaited. The reader will journey down Dementia Road in a way that only those of us with Dementia have experienced. Until now."
Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, co-author, Decoding Darkness: The Search for the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer's Disease
"An intensely intimate portrait of Alzheimer's seasoned with highly accurate and useful information about this insidious and devastating disease."
Richard Kaplan, The Harvard Coop Author Series, October 15, 2007
“An entire library of clinical literature on Alzheimer’s will make you an expert on the subject yet leave you unable to imagine, other than by sudden lightening flashes of intuition, how it is to be inhabited, as it were, by the disease, to feel its fungus spreading through you. Lisa Genova knows both sides of the divide. With a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard and as an online columnist for the National Alzheimer’s Association, Lisa Genova understands the disease from without, and in her first novel, STILL ALICE, she leads us through her eponymous heroine’s darkening mental landscape from within. There have been demented writers aplenty, those who write from one form of madness or another, and present us, consequently, with a demented world. But how many can you think of who, while whole and sane themselves, have managed, convincingly, to eavesdrop on the sensations, cogitations and anxieties of someone inching into Alzheimer’s great oblivion—while never interrupting, with clinical intrusions, her fictional spell.”
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