December 16, 2014

December: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I think it's safe to say that this book scared all of us. It certainly had our jaws dropping and our tears flowing. Most importantly, it had us talking.

Ann's mom, who also read the book, asked Ann to find out what we all thought of Alice's husband, John. He would certainly not win a husband of the year award from any of us, but there were varying degrees of understanding where he was concerned. Grace pointed out that John never changed throughout the book - he was a man in no way prepared to deal with Alice's diagnosis. Not only that, we decided, he had in his head, and he may have been right, that Alice, as she was before Alzheimer's, would have wanted him to accept that job that would pull him away from her when she most needed him to help. Still, we couldn't help but be frustrated by a husband who would walk away from his wife in need and leave her to their children to be cared for.

While much of the book was depressing, scary, and even shocking, we enjoyed watching the relationship change between Alice and her children, especially between Lydia and Alice. Even though Lydia was first child Alice began forgetting, the disease seemed to bring them closer. It was touching to see the girls caring for their mother, even though by the end of the book she referred to them as "The Actress" and "The Mother."

We talked a lot about how accurate the book was. Given Genova's training and experience, it seems reasonable to assume that it is relatively true to one possible course the disease might take. Of course,  this also sparked a lot of discussion about the people we all have known who suffered from the disease and the way it impacted the people who cared for them.

Of course, Genova chooses to end her book while Alice is still able to talk and care for herself (although she needs round the clock attention). It allowed her to end on Alice's story while there was something positive yet to say; the reality is that, had the book continued, Alice would have gotten much worse. We all agreed this was a hard enough book to read as written. But it certainly does make a good book club choice.