Monday, March 28, 2011

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007)

This book recounts the story of a successful woman who is faced with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. As the disease progresses, Alice changes and yet stays very much herself, albeit a self that at the beginning of the book neither the reader nor Alice expect. In the beginning of the book, Alice's identity is very much wrapped up in her being a professor at Harvard. Yet, as the book progresses, it becomes obvious that the things so important to her old professor life, things she did not believe she could live without, are actually forgetten as even being of importance. The author conveys this in subtle ways: relating Alice's expectations and perceived necessary level of awareness at the beginning and then subtly showing the reader that Alice has learned to live without these things, without her showing any awareness about what she had lost.

In many ways, it is a tragic story - the loss of a gifted mind and the confusion brought on by Alzheimer's are made real to the reader. And yet, at the same time, it is also a story of hope - Alice is not simply her gifted mind and aspirations, but also someone who loves her family and can enjoy life. Thus, even as her mind goes, she is still Alice. Furthermore, as she becomes more attuned to enjoying life and becoming aware of others, a side of Alice that was earlier overshadowed comes out, bringing joy and restoration in the midst of the all the suffering and loss.

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