Remembering — The Core of Humanity: Still Alive: A ReviewBy
I listened to Still Alice by Lisa Genova partly because it is a club read for Ladies & Literature on Goodreads. I also read it because my family on both sides has a history of dementia of varying kinds. I suspect that most families either have a loved one that is suffering from dementia (whether Alzheimer’s or another form) or you know of someone that is affected.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association (http://www.alz.org):
- Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.1 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
- Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.1 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.
- Although there are more non-Hispanic whites living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias than people of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Still Alice was not my first book on the subject. I have read two books written by caregivers, All Gone by Alex Witchel and Moving Miss Peggy: A Story of Dementia, Courage and Consolidation.I have also read the non-fiction Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias by Sonja M. Lillrank, who is the Associate Director of Psychiatry at Georgetown University. It was a good introductory book that provides the reader with definitions, likely causes, and types of treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It is a good starting place for the lay person.
The fictionalized Still Alice is just as good. On Goodreads, for her bio, Lisa Genova’s bio says, “I’m a Harvard-trained Neuroscientist, a Meisner-trained actress, and an entirely untrained writer!” Still Alice provides context, in the form a timeline of a Harvard linguistics professor who begins to be symptomatic (probably she has been that way for a while) at the ripe old age of 50. After she becomes momentarily lost while running where she has run for many years, she sees her personal physician and ultimately, a neurologist. The professor is at the height of her career when she is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Most of what is included in Still Alice is real, in the sense that it mirrored current diagnosis patterns, testing, treatment, and daily life of both the patient and the caregivers. In that way, Still Alice combines the narratives from the books I have read and others like them. The difference? Still Alice is a powerful narrative. I disagree with the author’s assessment of her writing. She had me from the first page and the book never had moments of drag. The pacing was perfect and the language excellent.