Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007)

This is not an uplifting book, but it’s an important book.  Written like a memoir in its candidness, it tells the story of Alice Howland, a psych professor at Harvard, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease at age 49, in the prime of her career.  It’s actually fiction, and Genova is a neuroscientist, so she brings a deep medical background to the story, but what makes it compelling is the way she creates such a believable character.  From what I’ve read, Genova effectively blends many symptoms into one story; by doing so,  she gives us real and accurate insight into the suffering behind this disease.  We see Alice lose her blackberry, her way home from work, and her temper.  She hallucinates, she wets her pants because she cannot figure out which door in her front hall leads to the bathroom, and she sits in the audience of her own lecture hall instead of delivering the lecture.  But she also laughs, forms a support group, holds on long enough to appreciate her newborn grandchildren, and reaches out to her youngest daughter with whom she has had a rocky relationship.  Alice lives with dignity, but along the way she suffers terribly.  Her story left me feeling more educated about this nasty disease, hopeful that more breakthroughs will offer a cure, and lucky to be of sound mind as I approach age 46.  (fiction)

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