Summary and book reviews of Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice

by Lisa Genova

Still Alice
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  • First Published:
    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 Review

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 (485 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

Betty Taylor

Tragic but Realistic
This book is an amazing look at the life of a highly intelligent college professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. It was so tragic reading of the impact on her life, how others change they way they treat her, and how her ...   Read More

Linda

OMG!
I am living with my friend who is only 65 and over the last two years I have seen such a change in him. I have known him for 13 years and he is not the same man I knew since this disease started showing up in him about 3 years ago. This book shows ...   Read More

Kelli Robinson

Walk in the Shoes of Alice
I decided to read Still Alice because the average reader rating is extremely high. I'd never heard of the book or the author but gave it a try. I cannot even recall the last time I felt this emotionally moved by a book - ever. Something about this ...   Read More

Kelli Robinson

Early Onset Alzheimer's Examined
I decided to read Still Alice because of its many favorable reader reviews. I'd never heard of the book or the author but gave it a try. I cannot even recall the last time I felt this emotionally moved by a book - ever. Something about this story, ...   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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