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I have wanted to read Still Alice for quite some time, but there was always a long wait.  Now I’ve waited long enough that I didn’t have any trouble getting the book, and after I finished it, I could see what all of the hype is about.

Alice Howland is a Harvard professor at the top of her game.  At the age of 50, she has three grown children, a happy marriage, and a flourishing career.  But Alice has found that she’s been forgetting things–small things that are easy to brush away as menopausal symptoms or simply being too busy or too stressed.  However, when she gets lost in Harvard square in the middle of a run, she fears it’s something more ominous.  She is concerned that maybe she has a brain tumor, but she is not expecting the diagnosis–early onset Alzheimer’s.

Alice tries to continue with her normal life, but that becomes increasingly more difficult.  When giving a class lecture, she can’t remember the words that she needs.  Once, she shows up to class and sits with the students, becoming increasingly more annoyed with the professor, who has not come.  (Alice does not realize that she’s the professor of the class.)  Finally, after 20 minutes, she stands up and announces to the class that she has better things to do with her time than wait around, and then she leaves.

Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist, so she brings insight into the disease of Alzheimer’s.  Most of us probably think of the typical Alzheimer’s patient as someone who no longer recognizes his family.  Yet, Genova does an excellent job helping the reader, through Alice, understand just how devastating this disease is.  One time, Alice needs to go to the bathroom, but she can’t find it in her own house, and she wets her pants.  You’ll likely ache for Alice and what she is going through while reading this book.

Alice has the additional burden of knowing that her Alzheimer’s, early onset, has a strong genetic component.  Indeed, of her two children who get tested, one carries the gene and will face the same future as Alice.

This is an excellent, haunting, beautifully written book.  I highly recommend it, but be ready for an emotional ride.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

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