I’m usually not one to scrounge Bestsellers lists or keep up with book trends, especially if they will be or already are movies. I didn’t get on the whole Gone Girl bandwagon, I was too loyal to The Hunger Games to even think about starting Divergent and I completely ignored the whelming flood that Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ll admit though, as a nerdfighter and fangirl of John and Hank Green, I’ll probably read The Fault in Our Stars and every other book by John eventually.
But Still Alice interested me. It takes on a subject that I haven’t seen written about in the books that I’ve read so far, Alzheimer’s Disease. I haven’t been directly affected by it, but a close friend the family, especially of my mom’s, developed Alzheimers. She was an important part of the family and integral to the religious growth and maturity of my parents, and ultimately me. I can remember going to her house as a young child and eating her delicious food and sitting next to her while she talked to my parents. The last time I saw her was when the disease had gone quite far and her husband was mainly taking care of her. I was so excited to see that I just wanted to run up to her and give her a big hug. But she didn’t recognize me, and in fact turned away from me. I felt the most stinging pain in my chest when I realized this and had to fight back tears. She died soon thereafter, but I’m sure her memory will live on in our family.
With that experience, I came to reading Still Alice. Like much of population, I’m not that informed about Alzheimers and wouldn’t know what to do if someone even closer to me developed it. So I started reading thinking I might learn a little something but still being kind of doubtful since I usually can’t connect with or enjoy books with very serious themes (with the exception of My Sister’s Keeper perhaps). So I started it and I was hooked in the first few pages. First of all, the story is set in Cambridge, MA where I go to school, so I know exactly where the characters are when they mention Mass Ave or Storrow Drive or The Charles. That was a major point of connection that kept me interested. Secondly, you read in Alice’s point of view about her life and you get to understand an know what she’s losing. In all honesty, the transition was absolutely heart-breaking, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t crying by the end of the book. At some points, she would refer to her daughters as “that woman” or “the actress”, and once, her husband was only a stranger to her. But throughout the losses of memory and the uncertainty of the future, the reader is still reminded that this is still Alice. She is still there and she is still herself.
Granted, I’m sure I can learn about Alzheimer’s Disease in a more scientific way with a quick Google search or medical book. But like many others, stories are what speak to me and are what leave a more lasting impression. And I think I learned quite a bit, especially on the emotional side, from seeing the Alice’s life through her eyes. Anyway, Still Alice was a remarkable book, and well worth a read.