(Image Source: Authors Own)
‘I can’t stand the thought of looking at you someday, this face I love, and not knowing who you are.’
Alice is just fifty when she finds herself in a downward spiral, increasingly disorientated and forgetful. A university professor, wife and mother of three, she has books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But now a tragic diagnosis of early- on- set Alzheimer’s disease is set to change her life- and her relationship with her family and the world- forever.
Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short- term memory is hanging by a frayed thread. But she is still Alice.
Picked up this book in my local Tesco looking for something to pass the time when I used to travel on the train. This is my review of the book below.
The backdrop of Alice’s life is set out to tap into your worst fears. A successful Harvard professor in Cognitive Psychology renowned in linguistics, married with three adult children. Suddenly has early onset Alzheimer’s. It starts with simple things that you or me could do. Forgetting a word or where you put the phone charger however as the narrative progress, it starts to become more sinister as names and where she lives are suddenly not as clear and are difficult to retrieve.
Diagnosis comes at the worst time. Her husband, John, is distant as ever, Anna, her eldest daughter is trying to conceive and her younger daughter Lydia is trying to make it as an actress- a career Alice disproves. You start to understand how fast Alzheimer’s develops when Alice sits in her lecture theatre waiting to be taught not realising that she is the one meant to be teaching. When she forgets that her daughter is performing in a play, and her husband who has to go running with her as she cannot go out alone. You realise it is serious.
There are numerous symbolisms in the book that do not go unnoticed. A few worth mentioning (it is only a book review, not a literature essay!) is the bitter irony of the situation. Alice teaches and research’s psychology every day. Therefore, it seems so sad that her brain fails her.
Alice although has had a successful life it is a life that has been fraught with sadness. Both her mum and sister died in a car accident that was caused by her alcoholic father driving the car back from visiting Alice at university. The sadness of her upbringing is punctuated with the upset that comes in how her life will end. The life theme manifests itself when Alice’s older daughter is struggling to conceive and further to this when all three children have the option to see if they have Alzheimer’s.
A final theme is spontaneity. Alzheimer’s has been sprung upon what has been a linear life for Alice. John had lead a linear life working his way up and so has Alice to an extent. Her two children Tom and Anna are living there lives the way in the order in which life usually goes (to use Anna’s case as an example becoming a lawyer, getting married and now wanting a child). However, Lydia is the anomaly in this, from not going to university to being the only child to choose not to find out if she has Alzheimers.
I like the idea that the book is told by Alice, it’s her story and no one else’s. Although the Alzheimer’s is stripping her away. Allowing us to live the story through her eyes gives her some dignity.
To conclude, I felt the story was a really good read. This is through the narrative and the plot that was well thought out and not too scientific that you need a degree in psychology to understand it. On a side note, interestingly Genova had self- published this book before it was acquired by Simon & Schuster. In the reader’s group guide after the book Genova felt self- publishing was a great way to get yourself noticed and not wait around for rejection or otherwise. Hence, look at the success she has now! Not a book I would usually pick up or a topic I was particularly interested in, it is certainly worth a read. I want to watch the movie now.