Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, in the span of 3 days of a week that I spent 26 hours CFA studying - so that says a lot for how good of a book it was as clearly I had a very busy weekend. (Special thanks to Emily for mailing me her copy of the book!) In this book, we meet Alice Howard, a prominent professor of psychology at Harvard University. She is 50 years of age and has started to become a little bit forgetful. It starts with small things like losing her phone charger, or not being able to recall a word she wanted to use during a presentation - small moments of forgetfulness that she chocked up to the aging process.
But then one day, at the end of her run in an area she is very familiar with, she finds herself lost. She can not place where she is or which way she should turn to go back home. This spell lasts for a couple of minutes before everything comes back into focus and she finds her way home. She ends up visiting her GP who tests her for a wide range of things but finds nothing wrong. But Alice knows in her gut that something is off so she insists on seeing a neurologist and is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.
In the book, we follow along on her journey through this disease. At times, it made me uncomfortable or anxious to read this book because the author does such a good job of making the reader feel what Alice is feeling - the frustration, the embarrassment, the fear over what is to come, the shame.
The book is a work of fiction, but the author has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University, so while it is fiction, it is also reality. The book brings up a lot of decisions that someone suffering from this disease, and their offspring, will have to make. Issues such as whether children of those with early onset Alzheimer's should be tested for the genetic mutation that causes early onset Alzheimer's. Questions like whether you should reproduce if you know you have this genetic mutation as your offspring would then have a 50/50 chance of also having this genetic mutation. It brings up issues like the fact that there is sadly a sense of shame and private nature to this illness. Instead of a battle that is waged in public against diseases like cancer, the battle against this disease is a quiet, private one.
Over the course of reading this book, it took on a personal meaning for me as someone close to me, whose story is not mine to tell, is dealing with this as their parent has early onset Alzheimer's. It breaks my heart to read this book and see how the disease will progress and to know that this person in my life will have to go through all of this.
While this book is fiction, I think it has a purpose. The earlier that Alzheimer's disease is detected, the sooner they can start treatment and the slower a person will (hopefully) regress. In Alice's situation, the doctor's initial diagnosis was that the forgetfulness was a side effect of menopause, but because of Alice's insistence to see a specialist, she was accurately diagnosed. The book is sort of a call to arms to ask questions and follow your gut if something really feels off. After all, when it comes to our health, we have to be our own advocates.
So if you are looking for a moving, powerful book - read this.
Have you read this book? When is the last time you read a book that really impacted you?