Still Alice by Lisa GenovaAs someone who has worked with dementia patients, I found Lisa Genova's best-selling novel Still Alice to be a poignantly candid portrayal of the ordeals suffered by a woman with Alzheimer's. Dr. Alice Howland is a Harvard professor at the height of her career when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's syndrome. We watch her struggle to remember things even as she plots to commit suicide before her mind is completely obliterated. She cannot imagine life without her career, her friends and her independence. Most of all, she dreads what she sees as being the inevitable loss of the relationship with her husband John.
However, as the illness takes hold and Alice slides into dementia, her courage seems to grow and with it her capacity to love and enjoy the little things in life. She sees what she had sought so feverishly in the world was not what matters most to her. In spite of her growing infirmity she finds that the relationships with her children become richer and deeper. She is finally able to reach her youngest daughter in way she could not when she was well. On the other hand, she realizes that she is not her husband's main passion and as her mind fades he must seek to fill his life.
The book offers a great deal of food for thought. For instance, when it is found that Alice's daughter Anna has the Alzheimer's gene, Anna decides to make certain that any children she conceives do not have the same gene. Since Anna in impregnated through IVF, the embryos carrying the Alzheimer's gene are discarded. Alice sadly realizes that if she had done the same thing then she would never have had Anna. Science can create as many problems as it solves.
Still Alice is a novel of tender beauty and heartrending power which portrays a woman stripped of everything that makes life worth living and yet in losing herself she finds herself. We learn with her that the essence of her personality can never be destroyed; it rests in an immortal soul. Anyone who has ever cared for a loved one with a degenerative illness needs to read this book. For that matter, it is good for any person who is sick or facing old age.