Still Alice by Lisa Genova is a compassionate and insightful novel about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Alice (Ali) Howland is a professor of linguistics at Harvard. Her husband is a professor of biology at the same institution. As this book opens, Ali becomes uncomfortably aware of a few memory lapses. They startle her, in part because her professional reputation is founded in her phenomenal memory for authors, titles, studies and their implications.
Like all professors at high powered institutions she presents at international conferences, publishes original research and her case, is a remarkable teacher besides. And so memory lapses, even one or two, are a serious concern. So it is as this novel opens.
In the next chapters we accompany Alice as she goes through neurological diagnosis, and we watch as she creates supports and adjustments so she can continue at her job. Her job is very important to her, it defines her to herself.
Then we are present at the meeting with her chairperson when she recognizes that her support system is not working so well in her teaching. She agrees to 'sick leave' and then sabbatical before taking retirement. She still has some aspect of her defined self.
In her ensuing months there are typical Alzheimer experiences. We witness her interactions with family... her experiencing her past that seems like it is present... confronting frustrations...sudden appreciations of life and sudden realization that her husband's first priority in life is his career. And yet, through it all Ali is Still Alice. And she needs, longs to be recognized as such.
Those who can find ways to meet her where she is and yet reach that core of who she is are true blessings. Those who can not do it, find frustration for themselves ...and make frustrations for her.
This novel is worth reading. As Phil Boleta, author of sixty Seconds says, "This book is as important as it is impressive, and will grace the lives of those affected by this dread disease for generations to come".
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