Still Alice a novel by Lisa Genova – July Walking Book Club
When I first started to spread the word about this blog and my Walking Book Club, I was told over and over that I had to include Still Alice by Lisa Genova in the book club reading list. Once I learned that Lisa Genova was a neuroscientist too, well, I was sold! Last Easter we went on a family camping trip and I took the book along and devoured it (with tears stinging my eyes) in a day.
I believe if there is one book you should read to convince you of the value of taking care of your brain health and wellness – this is it. Still Alice played a huge part in the inspiration behind Your Brain Health. I hope this story moves and inspires you too.
An overview …
She didn’t want to become someone people avoided and feared. She wanted to live to hold Anna’s baby and know it was her grandchild. She wanted to see Lydia act in something she was proud of. She wanted to see Tom fall in love. She wanted to read every book she could before she could no longer read.
Alice Howland is proud of the life she has worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When Alice begins to grow forgetful at first she just dismisses it, but when she gets lost in her own neighbourhood she realises that something is terribly wrong. Alice finds herself in the rapid downward spiral of Alzheimer’s disease. She is only 50 years old.
While Alice once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must re-evaluate her relationship with her husband, her expectations of her children and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.
Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.
Lisa Genova, holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and now travels, speaks and writes about Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and autism – obviously a woman after my own heart!! She has done research on the molecular basis of depression, Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, and memory loss following stroke.
Genova is also the author of Left Neglected – a novel about a woman recovering from traumatic brain injury, and Love Anthony – a novel about a young boy with autism …. future Walking Book Club novels in waiting!
What happens after I read Still Alice?
In about two weeks time I’ll send out my newsletter with questions for you and your friends to discuss while you walk (and I’ll also put the questions here on the blog). If you haven’t already signed up for the Your Brain Health newsletter you can sign up here.
As always, the questions will be designed to spark discussion about broader issues raised in the book, not a page-by-page analysis of the plot and characters!!
If you need a reminder of the philosophy behind The Walking Book Club you can read more here….
July Walking Book Club Questions for Still Alice …
- Do you know anyone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease? How did it affect their loved ones and you?
- Do you feel this novel is an accurate portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease?
- Alice is a Harvard professor and researcher and suffers from a disease that causes her brain to atrophy? Why do you think the author, Lisa Genova, chose this profession? How does her past academic success affect Alice’s ability, and her family’s, to cope with Alzheimer’s?
- Alice’s three children, Anna, Tom and Lydia, find out they can be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer’s, but Lydia decides she doesn’t want to know. If you were in the same position, would you want to know if you had the gene? Why or why not? Do you feel the same way about other diseases, for example, breast cancer?
- The subject of Alzheimer’s disease always brings up discussions of memories. To what extent are we made of our memories?
- What are some of your fondest memories? Do you have a memory you would like to completely erase from your memory? Do you think your personality or sense self would change if a bad memory was removed?
- Alice’s mother and sister died when she was younger, and yet Alice has to keep reminding herself they’re not about to walk through the door. As the symptoms worsen, why does Alice think more about her mother and sister? Is it because her older memories are more accessible, is she thinking of happier times, or is she worried about her own mortality?
- “One last sabbatical year together. She wouldn’t trade that in for anything. Apparently, he would” Why does John decide to keep working? Is it fair for him to seek the job in New York considering Alice probably won’t know her whereabouts by the time they move? Is he correct when he tells the children she would not want him to sacrifice his work?
- Why does Lisa Genova choose to end the novel with John reading that Amylix, the medicine that Alice was taking, failed to stabilise Alzheimer’s patients? Why does this news cause John to cry?
- Alice creates a “butterfly file”. If you were diagnosed with a terminal disease would you make your own version of a “butterfly file”? What if you found out a loved one who was ill had such a file?
So, now you’ve read the book … What are your thoughts?
About Dr Sarah
I’m an Oxford University-educated neuroscientist, presenter of ABC Catalyst, director of The Neuroscience Academy, and author of The Women's Brain Book. The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness.
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