78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2009
Alice Howland taught cognitive psychology courses at Harvard for over twenty-five years. Alice and her husband, John authored Molecules to Mind, she published papers, and lectured around the world. Her three children were grown and on their own paths (not that she was very happy about Lydia's choice of acting, but she hadn't given up trying to influence her to go back to real school). Her son Tom was doing well in school, daughter Annie and her husband, Charlie are attorneys trying to conceive a first grandchild.
Facing a busy schedule and travel and everyday stress, Alice isn't concerned when she begins to forget little things, where the keys are, names of acquaintances or a momentary sense of disorientation. After all she is fifty and that is part of menopause. .
A trip to her family doctor to get some suggestions for cognitive memory reinforcement and to see if medication is available does not help. Alice is stunned to learn that she has Early Onset Alzheimer's and that there is not very much available for treatment. Telling her husband and children is even harder to face. Eventually she has to face the loss of her teaching and life's work.
"Still Alice" is Alice's voice as she struggles with the advancement of Alzheimer's. As the disease advances, she is living more in the now, and often hurt by her interpretations of family member's words and actions. She reacts with anger and confusion as her world shifts and becomes more unfamiliar and frightening. Her family also has to deal with their emotions. The realization that their funny, loving accomplished mother and wife is slowly disappearing before their eyes are devastating, and they each react differently. Alice tries to stay aware of what is happening, but has the disease advances her voice becomes quieter and briefer. Lisa Genova has a Ph.D in Neuroscience from Harvard University and works with several Alzheimer's organizations as well as serving as the online columnist for the national Alzheimer's Association. Although "Still Alice" is a work of fiction, it is apparent there is much drawn from real life experiences and observations. Genova has given a voice to a population not usually listened to. The characters are facing uncertainty and struggling with Alice's decent into unknowing. There are moments of hilarity as well as heartbreak. This book will touch anyone who works with dementia patients, or who has a friend or loved one with Alzheimer's. (early 2008)
Less than a year later finds me, the reviewer, caring for my own father in my home as he succumbs more and more to his organic dementia. We have had to uproot him from his home in Texas to move into our home in Utah where either my husband or I can be with him around the clock. We moved into a house and I have drastically cut back on my work load. I keep looking back to the pages where Alice tries to describe her confusion and tries to frame what she wants from those around her so I can somehow meet those same needs in my Father. I fear I am falling short.....there is so much anger directed at me and my husband for moving him away. We couldn't transfer out jobs down to Texas and survive. Being over fifty we couldn't walk away from careers with tenure and pensions. Between my 7 other siblings there were too many teenagers (too much stress) too many young children (ditto) and a widowed sister looking for a possible husband. Oh, and the inevitable family conflicts. No matter how hard I have tried I feel I am falling short. "It's nothing personal, Mary....I like your brothers more than you" Dad hates it here, it isn't working. "One night I am going to walk right out of here and won't that be a surprise in the morning?' Dad often says the blessing at dinner and is sure to add "Please bless this food especially since Mary has cooked tonight" that is if he can manage to say all that before we all get the giggles and just say "amen". I work with this type patient everyday at my job and I still cannot make it work in my homecare for my own Father. I reread Still Alice as a roadmap. it is my best guide.....though the road is unknown and I feel completely unprepared to travel it. I have no choice I must keep moving on....
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is the story of Alice Howland, a brilliant 50 year old cognitive psychology Harvard professor. She has published articles and lectured around the world. She is the wife of John, a successful scientist and together they have 3 children. Anna is an attorney married to an attorney,Tom a college student and Lydia is an actress.
Alice begins to experience moments of forgetting and confusion which she chalks up to perhaps menopause, aging, her busy professional life, too much stress, not getting enough sleep etc. Some of these moments include searching for hours for her BlackBerry charger which is always plugged in the electrical socket right beside her bed, and a jog in Harvard Square which she is so familiar with, she suddenly becomes disoriented and now can't find her way back home. Her memory comes back and she returns home.
She was invited to be guest speaker at Stanford to kick off the cognitive psychology fall colloquium series. She has no trouble getting there and when she does she is introduced and begins her 50 minute talk. She loves public speaking and she loves to teach so this comes easy to her. However 40 minutes into her talk she can't find the word.It's gone and not even on the tip of her tongue. It's gone forever.She thinks that it may be from the champagne she drank or perhaps jet lag. She feels so embarrassed and wonders what people are thinking.
Alice keeps putting off calling her GP thinking that the episodes will disappear with time. She finally sees her GP and tells her that she's been having memory problems. Her GP does tests and the tests turn out normal. Alice thinks it is probably a brain tumour and tells her doctor she wants to see a neurologist.
Alice then visits a neurologist who puts her through various memory tests. She fails the test. The doctor sees that something is very wrong and soon she is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's and there is very little that can be done.
Alice is stunned with the terrible news, She now has to face her husband and children and tell them the bad news. Her husband John has a tough time accepting this and throws himself into his work. The children have their own opinions on how to deal with their mother. All three opinions are widely different. Now Alice has to face up to the loss of a teaching career and her life ahead.
For those of you who don't know too much about Alzheimer's, this book will surely enlighten you. For those who have gone through this, the disease seen from the perspective of Alice who is suffering with this treacherous disease will enlighten you as well.
To those who felt that there should have been an ending and you wanted to know what happened to dear Alice. The answer is clear. The disease is Progressive and Degenerative.
Dr. Lisa Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is well versed in this subject matter to be sure. She is brilliant in her depiction of Alzheimer's/Dementia, what it is and how it affects a human being like Alice, as Alice tells us her story.
Still Alice is a powerful book. It is heartwrenching yet never depressing.
P.S. My dear mother Ruth suffered with Dementia and to me she will always be STILL RUTH as dear Alice will always be STILL ALICE to her loved ones.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2010
I completely related to Alice and her family. My husband has a progressive neurological condition that has profoundly affected his mobility and speech and of course has a major impact on myself and our daughters. It made me think about my own situation on so many different levels that it's hard for me to convert my thoughts into a few words. There were 2 tracks in the book that I kept seeing (we have experienced them as well). One was people's inability or discomfort in relating to her once she was diagnosed - friends and family either told her how sorry they were or talked as if she wasn't present. Her daughter Lydia was able to connect with her. She was successful because she connected with her mother on an emotional level not in a cognitive way. On the last page of the book she asks her mother to listen to her monologue from a play and tell her what she thinks about it, not the story (because she knew she wouldn't be able to comprehend the words) but how it makes her feel emotionally. The second theme I noticed was the references to small moments. The things that mattered to Alice in the end were: walking to work with her husband, eating ice cream, running, smelling her grandchildren. So here comes the lessons we can all learn - be empathetic not sympathetic (saying I'm sorry is not helpful or necessary) and when it comes down to it, the only things that matters are the small moments with the people you are closest to. Maybe if we all try to be more empathetic and in touch with our own emotions we will stop defining ourselves through our work/careers and actually take the time to enjoy the small moments. One more thing, don't be too hard on John for not being more supportive of Alice. He was going through the stages of grief as well - denial, anger, bargining and hopefully he reached the final stage of acceptance. No one really knows how they will react if faced with a similar situation until they're in it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2009
What a great story. A very easy read; couldn't put it down! I have never really put much thought into Alzheimers before, but boy, was this story enlightening. Alice is a lovable, relatable character, with a successful career, a busy but devoted husband, and children each at their own stages of life. When Alzheimers takes over and changes her dynamics with each, it is heartbreaking.
I found myself very sad for Alice and all her family members throughout the novel, and can only imagine what true Alzheimers patients and their families go through. You will leave this book wanting to go and spend time with your loved ones and to cherish every moment, knowing that with a disease like this you can lose it all too easily.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2009
Lisa Genova's first book is both disturbing and educational. Her characters are so true to life you laugh and cry with them while you are learning about Alzheimer's disease. The devastation in Alice's life is phenomenal as her career ends and her role as wife and mother are forever changed when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers at 50 years of age. Still Alice is a great read, one that everyone could benefit from reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
It was one of the best books I've read as it was well written and so informative. I really think that anyone who is a caregiver for a senior whether with Alzheimer or not should read this book. It gives an insight into the senior and the incredible frustration that is experienced as we age. We need to be patient and remember that our senior has led an interesting life that needs to be acknowledged and respected for it.
on October 1, 2015
I first read this book shortly after its release in 2007 as part of a reading challenge and loved it. As with Lisa Genova's novel 'Left Neglected', the story of Alice has stayed with me all these years. So when I received a copy of 'Still Alice' through a giveaway, I was more than happy to read it again and share my thoughts of it with you in the hopes that you will pick up this book and read it too.
Alice Howland is a well respected and very successful cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. At 50, she is happily married to John, a successful academic in his own right, and is the mother to three grown children, Anna, Tom and Lydia. After several instances of disorientation and forgetfulness, she seeks out medical help and is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Although afraid of losing her self-awareness and that which makes her 'Alice,' and powerless in the face of this incurable disease, Alice is determined to live life on her terms, with courage and dignity.
There are a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, available out there that give the reader wonderful insight into the emotional and physical struggles of caregivers on the front lines, dealing day in and day out with the destruction that Alzheimer's wields on their loved ones. Their courage and strength is admirable and I take my hat off to them. In the case of 'Still Alice' however, Lisa Genova has taken a different road, choosing to examine the perspective of the Alzheimer's victim. Told entirely in Alice's voice, using her memories and perception of her present situation, the reader has a sense of taking this journey with her.
As the novel progresses so does Alice's dementia, and her once sharp, intelligent mind and exceptional memory become increasingly unreliable, muddled and distorted. Her frustration when she forgets a word, or can't find her keys makes us cringe and think about that time when we couldn't find our phone or couldn't remember that word on the tip of our tongue. Our heart breaks for her as she slowly gives up the things she loves, like writing, reading and running, because we love these things too. We cry when she forgets the ones she loves because we can't fathom a life in which we don't recognise or remember our spouse or children.
Alzheimer's disease destroys the essence of what makes us who we are: memories, knowledge, experiences, feelings and the relationships we have with friends and loved ones. This is what defines us. Through Alice's story, Lisa Genova has brought these issues together and written a powerful novel about love, courage and the human spirit.
I absolutely recommend this wonderful novel and give it 5/5 stars.
on June 21, 2015
This was an amazing and moving fiction which, in reality, for so many people is not fiction at all. I started reading this book and finished it within two days even with everything else that was going on around me. As Alzheimer disease also runs in my upline, I was very interested in this author's rendition of the life of Alice Howland told from the point of view of Alice. The occurrences in my family generally affected people in later years but early enough for us to know that it was definitely not just old-age dementia or senility, and the experience of watching it develop was and is something which is very scarey. Alice's experience of not really knowing her daughters in the end, but yet knowing they were important people to her brought back some very real memories to me.
I found it interesting that when Lisa Genova was interviewed at the end of the book and asked what was her favourite section of the book, she mentioned the argument between the three children and how they all disagreed about how they should respond to Alice's lack of memory of very recent information. I am one of 11 siblings who had the experience of watching our Dad slowly deteriorate with Alzheimer's, and one can imagine how many different opinions existed in a family of 11 when discussing what was best for him.
The idea Alice's family had of making their mother videos of special events was amazing and having something like this to pass down to the future generations would be invaluable. Books like the Notebook gave us a wonderful perspective of a loving caregiver dealing with Alzheimer's, but Still Alice gives us an excellent perspective of the terrifying disease from the patients eyes. Thanks Lisa for an excellent read.
Everyone needs to read Still Alice. This book extends our compassion to others and helps make us better, more understanding people.
In this novel, we follow the story of Alice, a brilliant professor at Harvard, who discovers she suffers from Alzheimer. She is still very young, enjoying research and teaching about linguistics. Alzheimer hits her where it hurts the most: cognitive skills - memory and language - the core of her career.
How can this happen to her? How can she accept it? How can her family accept it?
Still Alice is the brilliant story of a woman struck by an incurable and degenerative disease which not only challenges her independence, but ultimately threatens her life. It's about her family trying to cope with the sickness and struggling to adjust to Alice. There is a real risk to forget Alice the wife, the mother, the cognitive expert, behind the disease.
As Alice becomes more and more dependent, her family dynamics change. Still Alice shows how important it is to remember the individual behind the disease. Respect, compassion and support should extend to people suffering from advanced stage of dementia.
I can't recommend this book enough. Just read it, really!
on January 5, 2015
The story of a highly educated and intelligent woman's descent into Alzheimers. A successful Professor at Harvard, Alice's brain is wired in such a way that she has many more coping mechanisms than the average person to address memory loss, forgetfulness. While these mechanisms are a benefit, they also serve to mask the symptoms of Alzheimers from herself, friends and family for so long that when she is finally diagnosed the disease is far along. This story is written from Alice's perspective, from the outset of those events which lead her to question if something is wrong, through the development of the plan on how she wants to deal with the disease, and the struggle that she endures as memories, abilities are gradually robbed by the disease. Husband and daughter are featured but are secondary to the story.
This book is beautifully written and reads so easily that it is impossible to put down. While a quick read it is touching and is one of those books that you will continue to think about long after you finish it. Plenty of tissues are recommended.