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Still Alice

Still Alice

Written by Lisa Genova

Narrated by Lisa Genova


Still Alice

Written by Lisa Genova

Narrated by Lisa Genova

ratings:
4.5/5 (670 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Released:
Jan 6, 2009
ISBN:
9780743581486
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Editor's Note

An emotional debut…

Grab a tissue. This fierce, emotional debut from Genova — who holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Harvard — captures graceful bravery in the face of a devastating disease.

Description


An extraordinary debut novel about an accomplished woman who slowly loses her thoughts and memories to a harrowing disease -- only to discover that each day brings a new way of living and loving

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease changes her life.

As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationship with her husband, a respected scientist; her expectations of her children; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.
At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.
Released:
Jan 6, 2009
ISBN:
9780743581486
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, Lisa Genova is the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, Inside the O’Briens, and Remember. Still Alice was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart. Lisa graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University. She travels worldwide speaking about the neurological diseases she writes about and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Today, PBS NewsHour, CNN, and NPR. Her TED talk, What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer's, has been viewed over 2 million times.  


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Reviews

What people think about Still Alice

4.5
670 ratings / 323 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This is a heart-wrenching, poignant story of one woman's struggle with the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. Told in the third person, the story focuses on Alice's point of view as she tries to come to terms with the diagnosis and her rapid loss of cognitive skills. It is impossible not to feel deep, sincere sympathy for Alice. She is such a wonderful character - courageous, intelligent, warm-hearted and, at all times, dignified. The speech she gives at the Dementia Care Conference had me in tears. Beautifully written, Alice's journey is a hard one to follow as she grapples with feelings of confusion, fear, anger, hopelessness and frustration, but I'm so very glad I travelled with her even though in the end, it was hard to let her go.
  • (4/5)
    Told from Alice's point of view, we learn about her symptoms leading up to a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. This is a tragic diagnosis for anyone, and for a linguistics professor at Harvard, not being able to find the right words, or eventually even to read, is brutal. We see what happens to Alice over two years, and learn what a devastating disease this is.
  • (4/5)
    Alice Howland is a fifty-year-old Harvard professor who is starting to forget things. She chalks it up to being really busy, swamped with giving lectures and traveling to conferences. The memory infractions keep getting more bothersome, so Alice's doctor puts her through various tests before diagnosing her with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. This, of course, throws Alice's life off course and turns everything upside down. I absolutely love that, despite becoming more and more unreliable, Alice is the first person narrator throughout the whole story. It's so interesting to be inside her head as her brain deteriorates. My maternal grandmother had Alzheimer's and hallucinated towards the end of her life, and I wanted so badly to know exactly what was going through her mind. Since she has a PhD in neuroscience herself, and did extensive research on Alzheimer's, I feel like Genova's book is the closest I will come to understanding what went on in my grandmother's mind.
  • (4/5)
    The main character has early onset Alzheimer's. I don't know much about the disease, but I found this book to be very interesting. If it's accurate, it gives good insight to what a person goes through as well as the family.

    A movie about Alz, Away from Her, was amazing. It seemed to be a much better view of the disease. I found it leaving a more lasting impression of alzheimer's --the actor's performances were moving.
  • (5/5)
    I found this story profoundly sad, disturbing and thought-provoking when I read it soon after it was first published. When I was faced with reading it for a second time (as a reading group choice) I wondered whether it would have less of an emotional impact. However, I felt as inexorably drawn into the author’s descriptions of how the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affected not only Alice, but also her husband, John, and their three adult children. The effects on their lives were profound and disturbing for each of them. I thought that she charted, in a very sensitive and moving way, the gradual disintegration of Alice’s ability to do anything for herself, as well as her continuing demand to be seen for who she had been, not just who she was becoming. She realistically and evocatively captured the ways in which each member of the family developed different, and changing, coping strategies as they struggled to deal both with new realities, and an uncertain future. Everyone hoped for a miracle cure but, as there wasn’t one, they could only watch as the disease unrelentingly destroyed every aspect of Alice’s life, from her memories, to her ability to do anything for herself. There were moments when her descriptions of Alice’s continuing awareness of what was happening to her were so evocative that they felt almost too painful to read: I could almost viscerally feel her frustrations and her fear.There were times when I felt angry with John’s apparent detachment, his constant search for alternative diagnoses or treatments and, finally, with a decision he makes when Alice’s hold on reality has deteriorated considerably. However, the author did such a good job of portraying his point of view, and his need to look forward, that I ended up feeling some empathy with him!Any form of dementia is something no individual or family wants to think about, but when it strikes someone in their fifties the shock must be greater, particularly as this form of the disease has such a strong genetic component, with a fifty percent chance that any children may go on to develop it. I thought that the author dealt well, and very credibly, with the dilemma of whether or not people would choose to take advantage of genetic testing. It seems to me that, whatever the decision, it must be very difficult to either live the rest of your life knowing that you have inherited that gene, or to go through life wondering. Not all forgetful moments are a precursor to dementia, but if there is that history in your family, I can only begin to imagine how stressful such moments must be. This is not an easy story to read but I think that Lisa Genova’s well-informed, compassionate writing has created characters who are unforgettable (if that isn’t too ironic) and through them has conveyed a powerful message that we should continue to “see” the essence of who sufferers are, rather than, through ignorance and fear, ignore them. I’m sure we all ask the question “what if ….? and I think this book goes some way to addressing some of the answers.
  • (4/5)
    When I read this book it really stayed with me and now to see it's going to be a movie with Julianne Moore, I can't wait to see it. She will be wonderful in it. It is a very hard story to read and will break your heart.
  • (5/5)
    “I miss myself.”Dr. Alice Howland is a 50-year-old psychology professor at Harvard with a specialty in linguistics. Her decline started with forgetting words, getting lost while jogging on a regular route, forgetting appointments, and even a trip. After her diagnosis, her relationship with herself, her husband, and her three children evolved. She finds tools to compensate her declining memory. Her husband who had loved her for her mind struggles to know the new her and to learn and fight this disease that is stealing her away. Her children, who may inherit the mutation gene, must decide what to do for themselves as well as how to be a bigger part of Alice’s life especially while she still knows them. ‘Still Alice’ delivers quite a punch. The idea of having early on-set Alzheimer is incredibly scary. Being an EON patient, the progression of the disease is faster than a typical elderly. Furthermore, because the main character is highly intelligent and a high-functioning individual, it’s possible her Alzheimer’s started sooner but she’s been able to compensate, making the progression appear to be even more extraordinary. The depictions of her decline, the gaps, the repeats, the mistakes, the moments of lucidity, are absolutely heart-breaking. The brilliance of Genova’s writing is its sparseness. She doesn’t outright point out Alice’s mistakes. She lets the readers come to the realization that an “episode” had occurred. In the last months, when her family members are described instead of using their names, the words read like a gut-wrenching blow when I realized she longer knows who they are. Damn…Quote:On the loss of language:“But to tell the truth, she was very far from okay. She could still read and comprehend small amounts of text, but the computer keyboard had become an undecipherable jumble of letters. In truth, she’d lost the ability to compose words out of the alphabet letters on the keys. Her ability to use language, that thing that most separates humans from animals, was leaving her, and she was feeling less and less human as it departed. She’d said a tearful good-bye to okay some time ago.”
  • (3/5)
    Although this book brought out my hypochondria (yes, I forget words/names/appointments....) I found the writing a bit tiresome and the narrative really predictable.
  • (3/5)
    I liked this book more than I thought I would. The beginning was a bit too plain, unrealistic (Articles published only in Nature and Science?), however, the more Alice's illness progressed the more human the story became. You could tell the author did her research, both in terms of science and human emotions.
  • (5/5)
    I was listening to the radio earlier this week and heard them discussing the movie version of Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore. It sounded interesting, so I started reading it on Thursday, and finished it while at the gym today. The writing was fantastic, the story was interesting and moving, and the small world Ms. Genova created took me in from the first page.

    Still Alice tells the story of a cognitive psychology Harvard professor who, at age 51, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She has a professor husband and three grown children, and is forced to figure out how she is going to handle this diagnosis. The book unfolds month by month, from before the diagnosis, through telling the family and as the disease progresses. What makes the story different are two things: first, that it addresses early-onset Alzheimer’s (as opposed to Alzheimer’s affecting people in their 80s), and second, that it is told from the perspective of the person with the diagnosis, not the caregiver.

    The book is devastating, but not so sorrowful that I found myself depressed by reading it. I really cared about Alice and her family. In fact, I cared so much for her family that I would love to have seen the story told from multiple perspectives (Alice’s husband and her three children, for example), although at that point the book would be 1,000 pages long. But those would be 1,000 pages I’d read. The characters are interesting and flawed – not everyone acts perfectly, and not everyone is wholly sympathetic. By have the main character Alice have multiple children and a spouse, the author can show us how different people might process the diagnosis.

    Beyond that, though, and most importantly, Ms. Genova slowly, throughout the book, really shows us what Alice’s experience is as the dementia gets worse and worse. From early on, when she gets lost in a place she’s been daily for dozens of years, to later on, when she can no longer follow the plot of the book she’s reading, the reader gets as much of a sense as possible of what the person with Alzheimer’s experiences.
  • (5/5)
    A must read if you have anyone in your life that has Alzheimer's. Such a different view of the whole situation.
  • (5/5)
    I kept thinking, as I was reading, "Is this me? Is this happening to me?" I felt like so many of the things happening in the story were things that had happened to me, or they were things I could easily imagine happening to me. Riveting story--I think it really gave a realistic view of someone (patient and caregiver) going through Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.
  • (5/5)
    Lisa Genova's depiction the life of a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's is a heart-wrenching view of what it might be like for someone who is slowly losing the meaning of self.Following Dr. Alice Howland through the period of her life when she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Simple things that we brush off as stress, exhaustion and other everyday facts of life were, unbeknownst to Alice and her family, symptoms of her falling into the depths of dementia.She realizes something is wrong when she begins to feel panic in situations that are normally rather comforting or normal. She forgets where she is when running even though she identifies the sites that are around her. She forgets words while speaking to an audience, the speech has been given before, the words are more than familiar and yet, somehow, this one time, they just escape her.Her family has a difficult time accepting all of the changes that come with caring for someone with Alzheimer's. Job changes, grandchildren, walks in the park, theater excursions are all being experienced in a new light. Dr. Howland seems to be watching as things change around her and she is powerless to do anything about it. She wants to say things but the words don't come. Even when they do, who really takes the time to listen.It scares me to think of how a person can be locked within her own mind. I know people who've had Alzheimer's and I wonder if this is really what they went through.Such a wonderful read!
  • (4/5)
    Heartbreaking. Alice, a Harvard linguistics professor develops early onset Alzheimers. The story is from her point of view & the frustration & scariness of losing part of herself and what she does to compensate - or so she thinks. Hubby is overwhelmed, refuses help & isn't very helpful. Her kids rally around, allowing her to stay in Cambridge. What a frightening disease.
  • (4/5)
    Heartbreaking....
  • (5/5)
    Most books I have read about Alzheimer's disease are from a medical or a caregiver's perspective. This book portrays the life of a university professor that slowly loses her ability to function due to early onset Alzheimer's disease and the frustration she experiences and her interpretations of the actions of the people around her. I found this a very good read since I have a husband with Alzheimer's disease and I found her actions and emotions very similar to ones I have experienced in my own life.
  • (4/5)
    Where I got the book: purchased from Amazon. A Sunday Afternoon in the Park book club read.Alice is a fifty-year-old Harvard professor whose life is pretty good. She worries a bit about having grown apart from her husband John, but hopes they can rekindle their relationship now the kids are flown. It bothers her a great deal that her youngest daughter, Lydia, has chosen a career in acting rather than go to college and beyond like her older children. And so on. Basically the life of any middle-aged woman with a successful career; travel, meetings, family, busy busy.And then on her daily run, Alice can't remember which way to go to return home. Putting her memory lapses down to menopause, she doesn't worry too much at first, but they begin to impact her professional life and she sees a neurologist. The verdict: early-onset Alzheimer's. And thus begins a rapid progression into full-blown dementia, seen almost exclusively from Alice's viewpoint as she tries to cling to the professional and private life she considers she's earned.I hesitated to read this book since Alzheimer's is very close to home for me, and I thought I'd be reduced to floods of tears by page 50. But the writing is so entirely unsentimental that instead I found myself caught up in the fascinating portrayal of a disease of the mind seen from within, and an analysis of the reactions of Alice's family. Alice is not entirely likable; she's a touch arrogant about her intellectual superiority at the beginning, and indeed the whole family, with the exception of Lydia, seem a little distant from one another, successful people caught up in the glamor of their own success. As Alice's dementia progresses, I found myself wondering if the state of denial in which John and the two older children exist (one, the daughter Anna, changes as the novel unfolds) contributes towards Alice's unreasonable refusal to inform her university about her disease, or whether it is purely a matter of Alice holding on to the self she has built up like a woman clinging to the edge of a cliff. Why doesn't John take steps to let Alice's colleagues know what's happening? Why on earth doesn't he hire someone to run with her instead of making her wait till he's available?Perhaps it's a matter of reaping what you sow. By being so self-sufficient in her life--and Alice is alone, having lost her father to alcoholism and her mother and sister in a long-ago car accident, so the self-sufficiency is understandable--Alice has, perhaps, helped create a family culture which values achievement so much that the other family members simply have no coping mechanisms for what's happening to her. Except for Lydia, who seems instinctively to understand what her mother needs in terms of emotional and practical support right from the beginning. A touch of anti-intellectualism on the part of the author? It is certainly interesting that as Alice loses her intellect, she becomes more empathetic and more in tune with the body language and feelings of others.If anything, this novel loses a star because of the sense of detachment I simultaneously appreciated for allowing me to read it without bawling. Also, I think, because of the difficulty I had relating to John and their son Tom, who seem to have trouble relating to Alice on any level that's not logical and intellectual. But it was a sufficiently realistic and compelling portrayal of Alzheimer's to make me sign up for a brain training site. After all, it's in the family.
  • (5/5)
    Love this book. Made me cry a lot. I've read books before about Alzheimer's disease but it's always base from what the caregiver/family felt or experience. But this one is more moving because it's base from what the patient is going through. Definitely a heart-wrenching and a heart-warming story. Looking forward to see the movie version when it's available for rent at Amazon next month.
  • (5/5)
    Astonishing
  • (4/5)
    Heartbreaking
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book! My cherished Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law both suffered from Alzheimer's disease. I choose to believe these are the thoughts and emotions they experienced.
  • (4/5)
    I read this book as part of a book club, I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. . . . it's pretty far outside my wheelhouse.

    I'm glad I read this book. it's told sympathetically from the point of view of Alice, as she struggles with the decline of everything she is through the ravages of early onset alzheimers disease. the reader sees Alice struggle through the loss of her mental faculties and her sense of family and self.

    this is a poignant and occasionally sad book, but we'll worth the read.
  • (4/5)
    Moving but sad story - written in beautiful prose, story of 50 something Alice Howland, esteemed Harvard professor of linguistics, wife of scientist husband John, mother of three grown children, soon to be grandma... is diagnosised with early onset Alzheimer's disease. "Of all the people who have Alzheimer's disease, about 5 percent develop symptoms before age 65." Alice knows this but, at first-like anyone in her age bracket and superior intelligence, ambition, etc, she guesses it merely may be the side effects of menopause, overwork or stress. Compelling because we experience the entire story through Alice's point of view, not in third person narrative - a challenge to do this well as Alice moves from full cognition, to hiccups of memory lapses to obvious, growing Alzheimer's "fog." Has a readers guide for book groups at end, and interesting interview with author.
  • (3/5)
    A griping insight on how it is to live with the Alzheimer's Disease, both from the victim's POV and the surrounding family and friends.

    It was written well on how Alice's mind and memory slowly started to get more bad, and I liked the characters in the whole. I felt that John, the husband, got a bit demonetized as he had a hard time tackling his wife's disease and how she changed, but also for him wanting to keep having his own life. A hard battle, surely, on how long one should stop his/her own life for someone else.

    I found the language suiting in his coldness and without really vivid emotions, but sometimes I felt the language were over my head with terms and med-talk that I had no clue about. It might be that English isn't my mother language, but it was a little bit hard at times.

    On a whole, a good, griping book that I read in two days, with good insight about this disease that I've never considered how it is to have or be around. But I probably won't read it a second time.
  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. It kept me hooked and was hard to put down. I really felt like I was going through this journey with alzheimer's disease along with the family.
  • (4/5)
    A very poignant novel that was very difficult to read for so many reasons. I really appreciated the look at this disease through the point of view of the person living with it. It really helped me appreciate how that person feels and looks at the world through an ever changing lens. Certainly worth a read, but hard if this impacts you personally in any way.
  • (4/5)
    Written by a neuroscientist. this is a fictitious case-history of an early-onset Alzheimer's patient, highly intelligent (initially) and able to express the patient's experience and feelings.
  • (5/5)
    I almost never empathize with fictional characters, because...well, they're fictional, and I never see them as more than that. "Almost never"...and then I find Lisa Genova's Alice. Fiction, but this is real. As real as it gets.

    On NPR, I heard interviews with people associated with Alzheimer research and care talking about both the book and the movie, and about how accurate the portrayals are. So I decided to read for myself. I was unaware when starting the book that Ms. Genova is a neuroscientist. The technical details show that, but the story is amazing. And tragic. I think it no surprise given the subject that Alice changes over the course of the book, so it's not spoiling when I say that we watch her decline, and it is heartbreaking.

    If one put this on the "horror" shelf, I think there'd be little argument. It is far more horrifying than any of the banal offerings of traditional horror - the last time a fiction book scared me was when I was nine and read some ghost stories...Stephen King? Dean Koontz? yawn... This? Pick your adjective for scary. Then double it.

    Ms. Geneva wrote an excellent book. For the impact and the extracurricular thought, she gets another star.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent.
  • (4/5)
    When Harvard psychology professor Alice Howland starts forgetting everyday things, it turns out not to be a sign of stress, but the beginning of her long path into early onset Alzheimer's disease. Genova has done a fantastic job of describing a very tragic disease in a remarkably unsentimental way. I picked this up because I have a close family-member who is suffering from this nightmarish disease and, even though it was at times very hard to read, it was very rewarding to get even a little glimpse into the monster that is destroying the minds of so many people's loved ones. Genova's prose is very easy to read, which I was happy about since the topic is tricky enough as it is, but I wouldn't have complained if the characters had been a little more developed - as it is now they are functions of the story first and people second. Recommended for anyone who has an interest in what Alzheimer's can look like from the inside.