Monthly Archives: April 2015

Still Alice

No, I have not seen the movie, though I intend to at some point. I picked up this book because Julianne Moore won an Academy Award for her performance. I had not heard of the book until then and I’m glad I found it. It is a book that stays with you long after you read the last page and place it on the shelf.

The book follows the story of Alice, a Ph.D. in Linguistics who teaches at Harvard. She is barely 50 years old, has three grown kids, a husband, and is at the pinnacle of her career. This is when she finds out that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. It starts slowly. Alice forgets words and replaces them with other words. She gets disoriented and lost while running a route she has run for years. She is diagnosed and does not immediately believe it. Her husband, also a Harvard professor, is, quite frankly, a jerk. I’m not sure if he is intended to be a jerk or if he just evolved that way as he was being written, but I really, really did not like him. He showed very little sympathy for Alice and for her condition.

At one point, Alice writes a set of three questions. She tells herself at the bottom of the questions that if she gets the answers wrong, she is to go to her computer and open a file entitled “Butterfly”. The file carries instructions for Alice to kill herself with a drug overdose if she cannot recall the answers. The question is will Alice know what to do by the time she can’t answer the questions? And, how long will it be before she answers the questions wrong? Part of the brilliance of this book lies in letting the reader figure this out on their own.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. It’s a scary, sad disease. Lisa Genova writes about it so beautifully. You feel for Alice. You feel for her family (except her jerky husband) and you understand the devastation the diagnosis leaves in its wake, not just for the person diagnosed, but for those who care about them.

Another thing I love about this book is that it is written from Alice perspective. Talk about an unreliable narrator. She tells us things the way she sees/feels/experiences them. Whether that is what really happened, you do not know. And I really liked that about this book. There is no surprising plot twist – it’s not that kind of book. It is the story of how one woman deals with being diagnosed with a devastating, incurable disease at a young age. You get to live Alice’s mental decline as she does. It is a very sympathetic portrayal and I truly adored this book.

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The Girl On The Train

It’s been a little more than a month since I finished The Girl On The Train and I think I am finally forming my final opinion of the book. One of my friends who read it said it’s a book you either love or hate. I don’t necessarily agree with that analysis. I think there is room for middle ground. I firmly am standing on that middle ground. I did not love it, but I also did not hate it.

This is a book that’s premise relies on plot twists and unexpected surprises so I am not going to discuss the plot in too much detail. The basic premise is Rachel, a divorced alcoholic, takes the train to London every day and pretends to go to a job she doesn’t have. She passes her old neighborhood on the train and makes up stories about one particular couple she sees. The female half of the couple disappears. And chaos ensues……

This book has a lot going for it. It has suspense, mystery, and an unreliable narrator. The author makes great use of playing with the concepts of memory and time and that is part of the appeal of the book. While I thought that it started out a bit slowly, once I got going, I was compelled to finish.

Naturally, this book is drawing huge comparisons to Gone Girl because of the unreliable narrator and the plot twists and turns. In many respects, I liked this book better than Gone Girl. It felt more complete. Not that it was. It just had that feeling. The writing also felt a bit more polished to me. If you feel compelled to read this book, don’t let its slow start make you put it down. It really is worth sticking with.

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