“And I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease will not be bargained with. I can’t offer it the names of the US presidents in exchange for the names of my children. I can’t give it the names of state capitals and keep the memories of my husband. … My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment.”
Author: Lisa Genova Published: 2007 Pages: 292
This novel is from the perspective of Alice, a forty-something year old woman, a professor at Harvard University and a mother of three children. Her and her life are completely ordinary until she starts forgetting things; she loses her keys, finds herself disorientated two minutes from her house and struggles to recall words that would usually come so easily to her. Quickly it becomes apparent that something is wrong and Alice is soon after diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Alice must learn, not only how to cope with the disease, but how to prevent it from consuming her entire life and fracturing relationships with those closest to her. But with her job in jeopardy and her marriage being repeatedly strained by her symptoms, it becomes clear that it will be an uphill struggle. As Alzheimer’s disease is something that people relate with the elderly, Genova takes an opportunity to reflect that this is not always the case. Anyone can get it, even as young as thirty and unfortunately there is no cure. The storyline and personalities in this novel definitely pull on your heartstrings because of the truth in it all. Genova evokes sympathy and love for Alice who is enduring a horrendous and all too real disease. The reason it is so heartbreaking is because you know right from the start that she is going to deteriorate, gradually, memory by memory, and all that’s important to her will be forgotten. Plus while you can see it running Alice’s life, a lot of the time she is completely ignorant of it. And yet never does Genova portray Alice has weak. She presents a strong and intelligent woman, who just happens to have Alzheimer’s too.
While I think the book was superbly written and shaped, I do think that Genova missed the opportunity to reach into the depths of human emotion. I would have like to see more passion, more extremes and more of an attempt to make the reader want to go and fight to stop the disease ruining lives as it does now. Regardless of that, however, it is an amazing book. The plot focuses well on the ordinary and creates a reality that makes you want to cherish the mundane things, because one day they may all be gone. Genova explores the strain the illness has on relationships but ultimately wants the reader to remember that while it may be taking a woman’s memory and health, she is still Alice.