‘Still Alice’ tells the story of a Harvard Psychology professor coming to terms with her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. The reader is taken through the beginning worries that something might be wrong, the diagnosis and all the pain and heartache that comes from it. The story is told from Alice’s point of view, this adds to the impact of confusion, the unreliability of a patient with Alzheimer’s is explicitly mentioned in the book. We get to know her point of view and trust it despite knowing about this.
I really like the fact that this was about early onset; Genova paints a really good picture of dismissing of symptoms because someone is thought to be too young to get Alzheimer’s. Many issues raised throughout the story are really important things that need to be discussed more openly. This includes the lack of services for Alzheimer’s patients to connect to one another. In contrast, care givers are provided with a lot of support. It is often assumed that patients will deteriorate too fast for this to matter. Genova does an amazing job of explaining why, even as the disease progresses, it is still so important for patients to be listened to and shown respect. They are still people, even if they can’t remember.
“My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter.”
‘Still Alice’ is very well researched in terms of symptoms, medication and the effect on loved ones. The differing reactions from Alice’s husband and her children are really powerful. They show confusion, sadness, denial and so many other intense emotions that people must go through when someone they love starts forgetting who you are. Alice has always had a strained relationship with her daughter Lydia. One of the most heartbreaking parts of the story for me is how this relationship grows as Alice slips further into her disease.
I think it’s common to fear getting Alzheimer’s, this book really shows why it is so scary. The repetition of whole paragraphs makes the reader uncomfortable and slightly confused. This is the repetition going on in Alice’s head all the time. When I put the book down for a few minutes to make some tea, I remember feeling very disorientated. The story had sucked me in so much that I was left questioning my own memory.
Lisa Genova manages to create an impressive depiction of this disease from start to finish. You feel the desperation of Alice when she receives the diagnosis and starts planning what she will do when it gets too bad. Her emotions as all she had ever known in her amazing career starts to fall away. You feel her anger towards her husband for not being more understanding. You feel his sadness at not knowing what to do.
This book is so full of emotion, you need to have some tissues nearby. Now to see if I can watch the film without sobbing the whole way through…