Summary and book reviews of Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice

By Lisa Genova

Still Alice
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2009,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...

Chapter 1
SEPTEMBER 2003

Alice sat at her desk in their bedroom distracted by the sounds of John racing through each of the rooms on the first floor. She needed to finish her peer review of a paper submitted to the Journal of Cognitive Psychology before her flight, and she'd just read the same sentence three times without comprehending it. It was 7:30 according to their alarm clock, which she guessed was about ten minutes fast. She knew from the approximate time and the escalating volume of his racing that he was trying to leave, but he'd forgotten something and couldn't find it. She tapped her red pen on her bottom lip as she watched the digital numbers on the clock and listened for what she knew was coming.

"Ali?"

She tossed her pen onto the desk and sighed. Downstairs, she found him in the living room on his knees, feeling under the couch cushions.

"Keys?" she asked.

"Glasses. Please don't lecture me, I'm late."

She followed his frantic glance to the fireplace mantle where the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When Alice becomes disoriented in Harvard Square, a place she's visited daily for twenty-five years, why doesn't she tell John? Is she too afraid to face a possible illness, worried about his possible reaction, or some other reason?

  2. After first learning she has Alzheimer's disease, "the sound of her name penetrated her every cell and seemed to scatter her molecules beyond the boundaries of her own skin. She watched herself from the far corner of the room" (pg. 70). What do you think of Alice's reaction to the diagnosis? Why does she disassociate herself to the extent that she feels she's having an out-of-body experience?

  3. Do you find irony in the fact that Alice, a Harvard professor and researcher, suffers from a disease that causes ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Still Alice seems designed specifically with book clubs in mind. Not only does the subject matter lend itself to in-depth discussion, but the novel features both a reader's guide and an extensive author Q&A. Beyond the book club circuit, those curious about this insidious disease will find this an enlightening and enjoyable read.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (979 words).

Media Reviews
The Boston Globe - Beverly Beckham

After I read Still Alice, I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, 'You have to get this book.'

Every 72 seconds another American develops Alzheimer's disease. The literary agents who said Genova's book wouldn't sell are wrong. Because Still Alice isn't only about dementia. It's about Alice, a woman beloved by her family and respected by her colleagues, who in the end, is still Alice, not just her disease.

Dame Magazine - Caroline Leavitt

Moving and haunting, with a knockout ending, Still Alice turns the unthinkable into art.

Publishers Weekly

This novel will appeal to those dealing with the disease and may prove helpful, but beyond the heartbreaking record of illness there's little here to remember.

Kirkus Reviews

Worthy, benign and readable, but not always lifelike.

Booklist

Clearly explaining the testing, treatment options, and symptoms of the disease within the context of an absorbing family drama, Genova has written an ideal primer for anyone touched by Alzheimer's.

Author Blurb Chuck Jackson, diagnosed with Alzheimer's age 50
This is the clearest and most truthful piece of fiction I have read depicting living with Alzheimer's. You accurately describe the feelings and actions of both persons, together, entangled in this dance with Alzheimer's Disease. Thank you for writing this story.

Reader Reviews
Robin Irwin

A moving read with unrealistic ending
I am familiar with the condition, watching my MiL from early stages till death. While I felt Ms Genova explored many of the dynamics of the disease and the family and their reactions, I felt in ending the book when she did, she wimped out on the ...   Read More

Jean-R.N.

Still Alice
Well written - everyone should be made aware of the dynamics in dealing with anyone exhibiting the symptoms of Alz. disease. Important to understand & remember that they have feelings too, regardless of their ability to communicate. As a nurse ...   Read More

janet weaver

STILL ALICE
I thought this book had a lot of good information, and was intriguing in many ways. I particularly thought the daily quiz the protagonist set up to test herself and protect herself from overstaying her intellectual shelf life was terrific. If the ...   Read More

Marian Shapiro

Enlightening and Educational
This is a heart wrenching and heart warming story that takes us through the devastating diagnosis that Alice comes face to face with. It also lets us know how this affects all the other family members and how they find the strength to be supportive ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Alzheimer's Disease

First described by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive brain disorder in which the nerve cells in the brain gradually die off. It afflicts an estimated 26 million people world-wide, and of those, approximately 4.5 million live in the United States. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the country and the fifth leading cause of death for those over age 65. 17% of women and 10% of men age 55 and older can expect to develop AD in their remaining lifetime (the difference between the genders is thought by most to be because of greater female longevity rather than an increased risk for women).

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