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 Alice. Alice 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.