I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova when it was newly published, and was intrigued by the way she portrayed emotion and – though I haven’t seen the movie – I remember her book as if I read it yesterday.
When I saw that she has a new book on the New York Times Best Seller List, I quickly downloaded it and finished it last night. The subject is one that is difficult to depict because it is about a family devastated by Huntington’s Disease.
It is an honest, clinical at times, emotionally “inside the heads” of the family portrayed. Joe is a tough Irish Catholic Boston cop, blessed with a beautiful wife whom he has loved since his teens, four children, a comfortable life – though he is haunted by the memory of his mother who spent her last years in a nursing home, believing that she was there because of her alcoholism. When he visited as an eleven year-old, he remembers hating the sight of her, strapped in a wheelchair and uttering nonsensical sounds. Only later did he realize she was saying “thank you” and “I love you.”
After Joe’s diagnosis of Huntington’s was confirmed, he knew the gene had been passed to him from his mother. He realized that she was not an alcoholic, as she was branded, but a victim of a dreaded disease.
Each of his children reacted in different ways to being tested. It is a tough book to read, but if you are interested in good writing and watching a family as they work through a crushing diagnosis – and are not afraid to shed a few tears – I recommend this as a visualization of how the O’Briens learn to embrace each new day with love. Let it be an inspiration, and it will be worth your time.