Friday, February 12, 2010


I pulled something in my back again and I'm on the third day of gingerly moving around the house. Standing is okay, so is laying down, but sitting is not so good. Computer = not good.

On the bright side I am in The Good Book Zone. I have a few deliciously good books on the nightstand and just in the past 24 hours have read what will likely wind up on my 'Best Reads of the Year' list. That book is Still Aliceby Lisa Genova.

I'd wanted to read Still Alice for some time and recommended it to my bookclub who chose The Help instead. Now that I've read it, I know that everyone who raved about it was right. It brought me to tears at least twice. I woke up a couple times last night and the first thought I had was about Alice, and what would happen to her in the last part of this book.

I'm sure you've read enough reviews of Still Alice to last you a lifetime, instead I will just share a few random thoughts I had while reading this amazing book about a 50 year old Harvard professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's.

*First of all, I haven't had much exposure to anyone living with Alzheimer's disease so this book was really an eye opener for me in terms of how it is diagnosed and how quickly the disease can progress. That shocked me, actually.

*Alice really gave me cause for thought when she thought about the fact that she'd rather have cancer, something you can at least fight instead of something that just gets worse until you finally lose yourself. She thought about how having and fighting cancer would lead society to perceive her as a hero; having Alzheimer's just makes you an outcast. People are afraid of what is perceived to be mental illness.

*This is a terrifying book. Any one of us could get Alzheimer's and there is NOTHING WE CAN DO to stop it or make it better. That is so frightening to me. The idea of not being present inside my body is so scary as is being a complete burden on everyone around me.

Still Alice is beautifully written and completely heart wrenching. I recommend it to everyone.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oh I'm so sorry about your back! I often have a back problem and I know how painful and uncomfortable it can be!

This book sounds very good. I have been so curious about Alzheimer's but it is difficult to find anyone saying what actually happens. So maybe this book would meet my needs! Thanks for the review, and hope you feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

Tara, ooh, sorry about your back. Take it easy and don't push it. I know it is painful.

My book group is reading Still Alice for March at my urging. I had to wait a while to read this book. It was too soon after Dad's death and then we are dealing with advancing dementia for my Mom. However, when I read it, it really resonated. This is an important book. Really important. For me, as the caretaker of a father who had Alzheimer's (not early onset though) and also the caretaker of a dementia (not Alzheimer's) parent, I could tell that Lisa Genova has personally experienced dementia/Alzheimer's in some way. I think that a grandparent had it. Anyway, it is spot on in my opinion and I even learned a few things. Such as why my Dad quit wanting to talk on the phone. It's tragic, awful, heartbreaking, and the person who has it and their family are all victims. However, there are definitely silver linings around the dark clouds. You just have to look for them. Sometimes very hard. When we realized that Mom had dementia (and quite frankly had been declining for some time), I thought, "Are you kidding me? Really? Again?". But...I'm OK, she's OK mostly for now. We're managing. She's not in pain physically. We'll get through it together.

You wrote a nice review. Thanks for passing on the word about this book. :-)

bermudaonion said...

Sorry to hear about your back - take care of yourself.

I love the way you did this review and you're right, Alzheimer's is terrifying. Luckily, I haven't had to deal with it on a personal level, but several friends have and it is heartbreaking to everyone in the family.

JoAnn said...

I pitched this to my book club, too, but it didn't get selected. You've convinced me to read it myself...then I'll try again. Hope your back is better soon.

Ti said...

First off, so sorry to hear about your back. I throw mine out sneezing so I know how ya feel.

This book sounds very, very good. I have been putting it off though because of the subject matter. I can deal with a lot of things but the idea of losing one's memory and not remembering your loved ones... wow... almost too much for me.

Staci said...

Back pain is the worst!!! I'm hoping that this passes quickly!!!

I loved this book. My grandfather died from Alzheimer's so this one became a bit personal for me.

Danielle said...

I've actually not read any reviews of this book--but then I have been really behind in my blog reading so that's probably why! I keep seeing this at the store and looking at it, but you're right the subject matter is terrifying and I'm not sure I can handle it right now. It sounds like its a good one, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry your back's hurting! Hope you start feeling better soon. I've never even heard of this book - I'll have to put a hold on it at the library and see if I can manage the sad subject matter.

Esme said...

sorry about your back: I just finished reading Making the Rounds with Oscar-a cat in a home for those with Alzheimers.

Nan said...

So, so sorry about your back, Tara. I just wondered if you ever do yoga. There are some wonderful dvds which are gentle and slow, yet very strengthening to the back. Email me if you want more info.

I've wanted to read this book too. I think in some ways it is a blessing for the person as long as that person isn't aware of the memory loss. I think I've heard that at the beginning they do know, but later they don't. I would rather not know what is going on than to have cancer and know I'm dying of it. It is a very interesting subject, and there are a couple nonfiction books written by a man who has it. He writes until he can't.

Thomas DiBaggio:

Losing My Mind 2002
When It Gets Dark 2007

Bookfool said...

Ooh, so sorry about your back. Hope you feel better, soon.

I'm in a serious minority when it comes to this book. I got it for review and swapped it almost immediately; but, having just lost my mother to cancer within the year before I received it, I was not up to reading anything heart-breaking. So I'm glad I swapped it. My lousy library is likely to have a copy. I may read it some time. Your review is one of the most convincing that I've read.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Ow! Take care of your back and feel better!

Glad to see you are enjoying a book during this time. Alzheimer's really scares me too. I feel the same way you do - not being fully aware of who people are or my surroundings would just make me shut down I am sure. Thanks for the info on the book!

Tara said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful words about my poor back. It is feeling a teensy bit better each day so that is good!

Rhapsody in books, this sounds like it week satisfy your curiousity. It is excellent.

Kay, I get teary reading what you wrote about your parents. These days of caring for ones parents are still in my future, yet I can see how difficult those days will be. It's good to know that you agree with the tone of this book, that it is 'the truth.'

Kathy, it is such a dreadful disease, such a shame for all involved.

JoAnn, do give it a try, it's a teriffic book.

Ti, that's about what happened with my back! I know what you mean about this book being too much. It frightened me terribly and I'm still thinking about it.

Staci, I am so sorry your grandfather suffered from Alzheimer's. It's such a tragic disease.

Danielle, reallY?? It is really excellent, perhaps someday it will feel right.

Jennysbooks, let me know what you think of it.

Esme, I'll have to look into that book! I have heard about how cats seem to understand/feel things we can't. And we have a cat, so that is doubly interesting to me!

Nan, I have done yoga, but power yoga. Because I have trouble with tendonitis/pain in my wrist and fingers I cannot do all those positions where you must hold your weight with your hands. I would definitely be interested in knowing your DVD recommendations.

You present an interesting take on Alzheimer's. I do see what you mean about it being peaceful for the victim. I guess I feel the opposite way, though - I hate, really hate, the thought of people thinking I am stupid, slow or mentally ill. Also I hate the thought of what my family would go through and what a burden I would be. I would truly rather be dead and I am not kidding. I have already told my husband, if I am severely incapacitated, let me go, that is not life. I will certainly look into Thomas Dibaggio, he sounds like an amazing man.

Bookfool, it is okay to be in the minority, I am sometimes myself. This is heartbreaking stuff, and I can see why it would be too much for many readers. On the other hand I did not feel that it was gratuitous like I've felt some books are, but greatly educational.

Sheila, thanks for stopping by. I hope you give this book a try.

Iliana said...

Hope your back is feeling better, Tara!

I have this book, bought after I read so many good reviews about it, but sort of feel like I need to prepare myself for a sad book. Really looking forward to reading it though.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Still ALice was a wonderful read about a tough subject. Such a terrible disease. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tara.

Les said...

I'm glad your back is beginning to feel a tiny bit better, Tara. Back and neck pain can be so frustrating to deal with. My current ache is in one of my knees. I really need to learn that I simply can't run for exercise like I used to.

Anyhow, I'm so glad you read and "enjoyed" this amazing novel. I thought about Alice long after I finished the book. I found myself wondering how she was doing and I had to remind myself that not only did I not know her personally, but also that she was a character in a novel, not a work of nonfiction. Lisa Genova did such an amazing job with this book and I really did find myself thinking it was nonfiction.

I think I commented on the same point (about wishing it were cancer and something she could fight) in my review. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with all your remarks here. Excellent review. And I agree with Kay. This is such an important book. I wish I could get my book group to read it. Scary, scary disease.

Just a side note - I went back and looked at my review for this book. It must say something about the power of a book when I get dozens of comments as compared to the half dozen or so for something a little light or fluffy.

This is a book I want to read again. It made my Top Ten for 2009.

Samantha said...

I think you asked me on my blog if I had read this one and yes, I read it last year and thought it very good. I don't know where my current mania for alzheimer's books is originating from - I hope it's not some sort of premonition thing! The part I remembe fom this book so vividly is when she is in a meeting and presenting something only to start presenting/answering the same material/question again without realising - you got an immediate sense of how this appeared for an observer and how it felt (or didn't feel!)for a sufferer!

Tara said...

Iliana, thanks, it does! You do need to be in the right mood for this one, I hope you 'enjoy' it.

Diane, I'm in total agreement.

Les, funny, I have also been thinking about Alice myself. It feels a little bit odd, but I suppose it is the mark of a great author and great book. I was telling a coworker about this book and other people kept asking 'is this a true story'. It's not but it might as well be, if you know what I mean. I now wish I had gotten my bookgroup to read this. I think the conversation could be extraordinary.

Sam, I remember that part - so many things like this happened during the first half of the book, I wondered what everyone's reactions around Alice were.

Vintage Reading said...

Yes, I went through a phase of reading about debutantes but it's one thing reading about debs in, say, a Mitford novel and another reading non-fiction. I always prefer fiction.

Sue said...

I read this on Saturday. I, like you, was struck when Alice said she'd rather have cancer. I have to agree with her as I read the book. It really was scary and so tragic, not just to her, but to her family.
I loved the book. It was so well written~

Tara said...

Vintage Reading, yes I think you are right, I should stick to debs in fiction. Except I have another book called Debs at War! HOpe it's not as dull.

Sue, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you loved this, too, I've been recommending it to everyone.