Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review : Still Alice

Title : Still Alice

Author : Lisa Genova

Publisher : Simon and Schuster

ISBN : 978-1-84739-624-2

What happens when somebody loses his/her complete identity while still very much alive?

'Still Alice' is the story of Alice Howland - a successful academician, an accomplished Harvard Professor, who is diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer's Disease soon after she celebrated her 50th birthday . The doctor's verdict comes as a rude shock in her otherwise extremely active life, which she loves dearly and which is part of her real identity - full of travel, giving lectures, mentoring students besides being a loving wife and a mother of three.

It does not take long for her condition to deteriorate. The story is the third person account of how her disease progresses and the preventive measures she takes in order to extend the period of her being aware of who she actually is. Some of the parts are really touching and very sensitively handled - her being lost inside her own home looking for the bathroom, her forgetting everything about her actress daughter, her loneliness amidst her own family, her interactions with her youngest daughter and her heart-wrenching speech as an Alzheimer patient. These are the portions in which the author excels brilliantly, successfully invoking the right feelings in the readers.

But there is much that is left unripe, unbaked and amateurish.

The author keeps dwelling on the fact that Alice is a smart Harvard Professor umpteen number of times. The early onset of Alzheimer is a tragic development for any person engaged in any occupation. In the beginning while introducing the protagonist, the mention of all her details are expected but too much of the same piece of information is definitely unpalatable.

Interaction among the family members on many occasions fall in the category of being artificial and superficial. While reading this kind of story I was expecting the handling of the close relationships in much more sensitive fashion. Characters should have been etched with a little more detail and warmth. The elder two children and even Alice's husband John come across as dry and shallow individuals.

This story had all the ingredients of being a great read but the lack of proper handling makes it fall short on many fronts. Despite all this, it is still an engaging book as it offers a close to accurate account of how it feels to be the patient of such brutal unforgiving disease.

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