In the book we get to know Alice Howland, a 50-year-old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard University and also a linguistic expert. She attends conferences, talks and meetings all over the world.
She first realizes, there is something wrong with her when she can’t remember a word in one of her presentations. This unnerves her but only after she ‘gets lost’ while running on campus she sees a doctor because she thinks the symptoms could be a result of her menopause. She is told to see a neurologist who diagnoses her with familial early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
During the story we can see how she struggles to tell the news to her husband, her children and at work. She has a hard time being less and less able to understand conversations and books. We get to see Alice in different situations displaying the challenges and problems she faces on a day to day life and how she and her family try to live with her disease.
I wanted to read this book for over a year because I wanted to watch the movie based on the novel and I for that I had to first read the book. As the movie got so much praise and generally books are better than their motion picture counterparts I had quite high expectations on the book and I did not get disappointed.
I sure had heard of Alzheimer’s disease but reading about it in this amazing book provoked a lot of feelings inside of me. I can say that this is one of the few books that actually made me cry while reading it and not just once. After having processed one situation in Alice’s life, we are confronted with the next difficulty in her new life and her tries to adapt with a degrading brain.
Even though the book is written from a third person point of view and we only get insides on Alice’s feelings, Lisa Genova just writes so amazing that the thoughts and feelings of the other characters can be guessed. Sometimes the passages are just as short as a few pages but still the atmosphere they convey is on the point.
The best thing about the book for me and this is the thing that makes it extremely scary too, is that so many times I had to think how it would be like for me to go through all this. After finishing the book, I remembered Alice saying: ‘I’d rather have cancer.’ I know that cancer is nothing you should wish to have but thinking about being able to do less and less every day and knowing that you will not remember the conversation you just had because your brain just shuts down more and more every day is one of the most horrible things I can imaging happening.
Now maybe one could say that it is not because the book is so good that I felt those emotions but because of the topic, I have to disagree. Lisa Genova’s writing reflects the condition of the character as the longer into the book, the more the language indicates on the situation of the main character. I think that although the topic will always be something that makes it easier to maybe like the novel, the conversations and thoughts have to be consistent in itself. They show the desperation but also the good memories that Alice still has. And with all that is happening to her, we can never forget that she is Still Alice.