Sunday, March 1, 2009

Still Alice- my thoughts

Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
Copyright 2007, 2009
293 wonderfully written pages

From the inside cover:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life- and her relationship with her family and the world-forever. At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

I just finished Still Alice early this morning and the feelings that it brought forth within me were many...laughter, sadness, despair, hopeful, terrifying, you can see there is a huge gambit of feelings going on here. I don't want to give away any of the story during this post so I will try to make my thoughts short and sweet and to only elaborate on my feelings from this book.

Laughter: There is a part in the book where Alice gets into a fighting match with a piece of clothing. Her husband doesn't find it funny but she does and can't stop herself from laughing. Her reaction to this disease made me laugh along with her, what else could you do?

Sadness: There are a lot of sad parts in this book for me. At times I had to stop and wonder what would my life be like if this happened to me? What would happen to my two sons and my husband. How long would it be before I stopped recognizing them? There is a very poignant moment that totally hit home for me.

"I'm so sorry I have this. I can't stand the thought of how much worse this is going to get. I can't stand the thought of looking at you someday, this face I love, and not knowing who you are."

This passage made me sob my heart out this morning in the shower and this is why. My Grandpa Bill Brown suffered from Alzheimers. His last year of his life was spent in a special unit at a nursing home. I visited him when I could and during my Christmas break I stayed with my parents for almost 2 weeks and saw my Grandpa daily. I knew in my heart that this would probably be it for me. I couldn't handle seeing him waste away to nothing. Mind you, he was a big man in his prime, and now he was a skeleton. But not only that, his essence, who he was, was quickly disappearing. So on one visit I sat down with him and grabbed his face between my hands and said, "Grandpa, do you know that you're the best grandpa in the whole world and I love you so much?" He looked me in the eyes and said these words that I will never ever forget...."Sis, I don't know who you are but I know that I love you." My heart quite literally broke that day.

Despair and Terrifying: My heart aches in the knowledge that anyone of us could be struck with Early-Onset Alzheimers and it scares the shit out of me. For the past 3 years I've been noticing that my brain isn't as sharp as it use to I chalk it up to stress? age? (I'm only 40) pre-Menopause? or could it be something more insidious? Not knowing who my loved ones are, not being able to find the right words for things, words that I just had control of the day before......terrifying.

Inspiring: this book is inspiring, because it is from Alice's point-of-view and yes, at times she feels hopeless, but she's more than willing to try any experimental drug out there and to exercise, take her medications, and to live her life. Even when some of her loved ones start to act as if she's not there, she does not give up on herself!!! I'm also inspired by the doctors who are out there working around the clock to try to cure this horrible disease.

In a word, you MUST read this book. Even if you've never been touched by Alzheimer's in your personal life, you will be touched by this story and by this courageous woman who is....Still Alice.

P.S. I've listed way to many passages and quotes on my other blog to put into this review, but if you're interested in reading them please visit Quotes and Passages.

Other Reviews:

Thoughts of Joy
Lesley's Book Nook


  1. You always right wonderful reviews. I can't wait to get a hold of this book. Sounds great!

  2. Staci, This is such a beautiful review!!! You make me want to read this book that much more.
    You shared just enough about the book to get a feel for it without knowing too much, thanks. Your personal feelings with your grandpa were very touching. Alzheimer's takes so much from a person. I've worked in healthcare and have seen the effects and with several relatives as well. Thanks for a wonderful review!!

  3. My fiance's uncle has some sort of early-onset dementia. Not sure it's Alzheimer's, but he's only in his forties and no longer recognizes his wife or daughters. I sometimes think about their situation and try to put myself in that place. I don't know how they do it. I'm adding this book to my TBR list.

  4. Staci, beautiful review. Your feelings about your grandpa hit so close to home for me too. My grandmother suffered from alzheimers and it was so hard to see her like that. Now my uncle is and it's awful. I walked by this book in the bookstore today, stopped at it, but still kept going. I'm just not sure I can read it yet without my heart breaking.

  5. Bravo Staci! I especially love your unique approach to the review, though angles of emotion. I'd like to pick up the book and start reading.

    It's raining cat and dog here in San Francisco. I have found myself staying in all day immersing in the world of Scarlett O'Hara! I certainly have made headway through the book.

  6. You wrote a very thoughtful and honest review. I think I will buy this book now but it may take me awhile to work up the courage to read it. Alzheimer's is so challenging in so many ways, and for the caregivers too.

  7. Staci, you wrote a perfect and beautiful review of this book. I cannot wait to read it.

  8. This sounds heartbreaking. Lovely review, though!

  9. Okay - I have many things to say:
    1. I'm from Michigan, too. Go Blue!
    2. I loved this book and you helped me to relive it with your review.
    3. I'm so sorry about your grandpa. That must have been very difficult.
    4. Thanks for linking me!
    5. I've added you onto my Google Reader!
    6. Have a great day! :)

  10. This sounds both wonderful and heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing this book and your experiences. I'm flagging your review.

  11. Like the others have said, beautiful review. Alzheimer's stories break my heart. But this sounds like an important book. Thank you, Staci.

    And I'm so sorry you had to go through that with your grandfather :(

  12. Hi Staci, Thanks for the recommendation on this book.

    I'm going to look for it for my mom. She's been a 'caregiver' friend to two friends now who have had this horrid thing. I think she'll find it inspiring too.

  13. Have you heard of The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merill Block? It another book about early onset alzheimers. Excellent.

  14. Your own story has left me in tears. And I'm sure this book will as well. Thank you so much for your beautiful, and very personal, review.

  15. This sounds like an amazing book and I am definitely going to have to read it. Wonderful review!

  16. Sorry for being such a stranger, Staci. I am still around. Just not able to comment as much. :-) I have a copy of this book sitting in my TBR pile. I admit to being reluctant about reading it, considering how Alzheimer's has touched my life personally. I see that it has yours as well. It's such a frightening illness. I know what you mean too about worrying for yourself. My memory isn't what it used to be and lately it seems worse than usual--I've realized it's related to being ill and stress, and not Alzheimer's but the fear is always there, you know?

  17. Staci, there is another review I think you'd enjoy:

    and if you read the comments, you'll find a nonfiction view written by the sufferer himself.

    Thank you for an excellent review.

  18. Lexi- I'm so sorry that you're fiance's uncle and his family is going through this!!

    Matt- that Bravo from you made my heart swell. I find you very well read and spoken, frankly, I admire your skills and love that you really liked this review. :)

    Myckyee- thanks so much Myckyee! Alzheimer's is very challenging and I hope you do eventually read it!

    JoAnn- I hope you did go out and buy yourself a copy!!

    Priscilla- it is heartbreaking.

    Joy- I'm going to have to respond to your Go Blue! with this...MSU is the Big 10 Champions this year in basketball!! Go Spartans!! Thanks for your kind words about my grandpa. You're very welcome for the link and I thank you for stopping by my blog!!

  19. Hi Staci,

    Thank you so much for reading Still Alice and for sharing such a beautiful and generous review of it here. I love what your grandfather said to you. My grandmother also had Alzheimer's, and although she didn't know any of us anymore (she didn't know who she was either), I know she could feel our love for her. She still recognized and understood what love was.

    Just curious from the cover you posted, did you read the self-published version (with the cover you have on your blog) or the 2009, Simon & Schuster version? I ask because the S&S edition has a different ending. Let me know....

    Thanks again, Staci.
    Best wishes,
    Lisa Genova

  20. Lovely review, Staci. I'm sure reading this book was incredibly informative and moving for you on a personal level. And I love your grandfather's comment to you. Such a touching story.

    Thanks for linking to my review on my blog!

  21. I wish I could say I'm looking forward to reading this - I guess it's accurate on the timeline way of thinking - but I know I will be running right into heartache. Thank you for this beautiful review.


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