Still Alice: Early-onset Alzheimer’s (and a Book Giveaway!)

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A  post by my friend and book club devotee Susan Bellinger:

One of the most aggravating symptoms of menopause is memory loss, or at least it is for me.  But I know I’m not the only one who worries that I’m “losing it” or that Alzheimer’s Disease is creeping up.

My book club recently read Lisa Genova’s Still AliceAlice is 50 years old,  the mother of 3 grown children, a loving wife, and a well respected professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard.  Alice seemingly has it all.

However, her life is becoming increasingly disrupted by forgetfulness and occasional disorientation.

Alice becomes very worried by her symptoms but clings to the hope that they are caused by menopause because the alternatives are too disturbing to even think about.

Alice’s world is shattered when she visits her family doctor:

        “Can estrogen replacement help with the memory problems?”

        “…  I don’t think your memory problems are due to menopause.”

       The blood rushed from Alice’s head.  Precisely the words she’d dreaded and only recently dared to      consider.  With that one, professionally uttered opinion, her tidy and safe explanation shattered.  Something was wrong with her, and she wasn’t sure that she was ready to hear what it was. She fought the impulses growing louder insider her, begging her to either lie down or get the hell out of that examining room immediately.

Genova’s best-selling novel takes the reader through the diagnostic process, and we see how Alice and her family deal with her early-onset Alzheimer’s and its progress.

What makes this book unique is that it’s told by Alice herself, the first book that lets a reader enter the mind of a person who has the disease.

The author, who has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard, spent over a year researching the disease and talking in depth to Alzheimer’s patients.

When I led the discussion of Still Alice during book club, I was shocked that the majority of our club had someone close to them who had the disease or some form of dementia.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised because, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 older American have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

I highly recommend Still Alice. It’s a first rate page-turner, a warm and loving story of a family coming to grips with the unexpected, and ends on a hopeful note.

And, as a bonus, it gives us valuable, up to date information on the disease and treatments.

Listen to the author, Lisa Genova, tell how the novel began:

Giveaway:  To win a copy of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, leave a comment by April 2 saying you’d like to be the winner.

Susan Bellinger and  her husband Dwight live in Hillsborough, NC and both have mothers with memory problems.  Their two daughters have grown up and are now living in Vermont and Prague, Czech Republic.

Photo Below:  Susan’s mom read to her when she was a child and continued the tradition with Susan’s daughters.  Here she reads to her granddaughter, Gwen, now 22.

Jean and Gwen copy

30 responses »

  1. I’ve read this book. It is very powerful and really shows what it’s like. What I found reassuring is that minor memory loss doesn’t necessarily mean an onset of Alzheimer’s.

    • You are so right, it’s a very powerful book. I almost couldn’t put it down! The writer is a good storyteller and this is an important story to tell.

  2. This is a powerful book. The older I get, the more dementia I see in friends. I would like my own copy of this book to pass around to others.

  3. My dear friend passed away two years ago from this terrible disease. I will never forget the day she told me she had Alzheimer’s. She told me again the next time I saw her…She lived with the disease for seven years. Seeing a once vibrant and accomplished woman become nearly a ghost was a heartbreaking experience. I would be very interested to read this book–so I hope I win.

  4. I would love to win this book. I also have a memory that is getting worse and worse all the time. I got back and forth from attributing it to menopause to worrying that it is something worse, which I am too scared to seriously consider.

    • Jennifer, you sound like me! It’s scary, isn’t it? I’m trying to up my physical & mental exercise and eat better. AND, keeping my fingers crossed that it’s just menopause!

  5. Thank-you for bringing this book to my attention. I do not want to win it. 2012 was a tough year for my 92 year Old Mother who has confirmed dementia. It is very scary in a young person (50-60)!

  6. What a sweet picture of your mom and daughter, Susan! I would love to win a copy. This disease runs in our family. Thanks for your post and sharing your review of this book.

  7. I’d like to win a copy! Sadly my mother has a form of dementia and my father is having the worst time accepting the new normal. This book has also been recommended reading for me so I appreciate the chnace!

    • Silvia, my dad was having a hard time accepting my mom’s increasing forgetfulness. Dad is in my book club and when he read the book he gained a new level of understanding. It’s been very useful information for us.

  8. My mother-in-law died from complications relating to Alzheimer’s. It was a long road. I think my ex, Art, may have had it (He died last year, so no knowing), and I worry about my kids having it in the future.

    • Tessie, it never would have occurred to me about Art but there is a character in the book that may provide some clues to you. It’s an outstanding book!

  9. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I will put it in my “to read” pile – unless I win it! My beautiful – no, gorgeous – cousin (second) is now 94. She’s had Alzheimer’s for several years. She is fortunate enough to be living in a beautiful house that is used for Alzheimer’s patients, receiving great care and love from her son. The last time I saw her she still remembered me and my parents, but not my brothers (what does that say???) or her deceased husband/son/or her institutionalized daughter. She’s had a lot of tragedy in her life (lost her husband and son when they were 42 years old of heart attacks and her daughter had to live in a home due to severe disabilities). Anyway, she still managed to live a good life and is slowly leaving us. For Alice, to be so young must be so difficult, to say the least. Sorry for this long and babbling comment. Alzheimer’s strikes a chord in all of us. Thanks again.

  10. I will read this book, I have several in-laws (3 males) in late sixties who have dementia, all on statins, diabetic, & high blood pressure, makes me wonder if it’s statins.

    But I’m fortunate to have my Mother age 95 who is still very well with it, hopefully it’s in the genes! Maybe I’ll win the book!

    • Sandy, I just heard of a new study which indicated that diabetics have a higher incidence of dementia. Some are wondering if there is a sugar link.

  11. Yes, I know I will want to read this book. My Husband has a friend who was diagnosed with Alzheimers several years ago (relatively young) and was doing okay on medication; living on his own yet, etc. They actually planned a trip to Las Vegas to meet up with more buddies for a ‘rockabilly’ event. Tickets bought… all was well. He got a phone call from his friend’s daughter saying her father had been taken by ambulance to the hospital with a 102 temperature and would not be going anywhere. There were no warnings or symptoms. He was doing so well that he had a trip to Las Vegas planned. So what happened? No one knows. It can change that fast. We still don’t know what exactly caused the temperature spike, but we do know he won’t be out of the hospital any time soon. They were all so looking forward to this trip. Now my Husband doesn’t know if he’ll ever see his friend again. This is a heartbreaking disease. Thank you for opening up this discussion and introducing us to this book.

  12. Scary to think about. The book sounds extremely helpful for victims and families of Alzheimers. It’s hard to imagine how one’s life changes as the disease progresses. I’m going to to just keep donating to the Alzheimers Foundation.

    • Thank you. Research is key. The current state of Alz. research reminds me of where cancer research was years ago. We all were terrified of cancer but nowadays cancer isn’t the death sentence it used to be.

  13. I’d love to read this book and enjoyed this post. I have a dear friend who has this awful disease, and I am always struck by the look of grief on her care-giver husband’s face.

    • One of the more interesting parts of the book is Alice’s husband’s reaction to her diagnosis and her disease’s progression. It truly is a family disease b/c it impacts everyone.

  14. would love to win this book .. my father in law passed away a year ago today from this disease and my own father is starting to battle with it.. he was able to express that he knows it is happening and it causes him anxiety because he has to look at the calendar every second to know what he is supposed to do next. I don’t normally buy books because of the cost so I do usually check them out at the Library but this one would be good to have as my own.. Thank you.

  15. Although she was never diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we experienced the sadness of memory loss with Cliff’s mom’s dementia. She had no real memory of our visits and our phone calls, and she would lose our cards soon after we sent them.

    Thanks so much,Susan, for this important post. I was delighted with the response.

    • Thanks, Barbara, for allowing me to review this important book. The disease touches so many people and it’s important to have all the information we can find on it.

  16. Susan received word, via Facebook, from Lisa Genova about this post!

    Lisa Genova wrote: “Hi Susan, Thanks so much for this great blog post. “When I led the discussion of Still Alice during book club, I was shocked that the majority of our club had someone close to them who had the disease or some form of dementia.” I hear this so often. There is still so much stigma and isolation and fear with Alzheimer’s. People are still going through this alone. But isn’t easier to go through something difficult when we can share it, get support from friends and community? I love hearing that Still Alice is helping to bring Alzheimer’s out of the closet and into people’s living rooms where they can realize that they’re not alone.”

  17. Pingback: Her Waist Is Gone! | Friend For The Ride

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