By Lisa Genova
PBR Book Review:The concept of this book is something the average person does not think about. It’s hard to fathom a world where the brain simply erases the left side of everything. As a result of a brain injury, this is the tragedy that befalls Sarah, in this story. As she did in “Still Alice”, Lisa Genova, once again puts you inside the mind of Sarah allowing you to experience the full emotional impact of coping and learning to live with this condition. What I found especially endearing about this book, was the author’s ability to have me tearing up one minute and laughing out loud the next, especially given the seriousness of the topic- amazing writing style and timing. Aside from dealing with the brain injury, the story is thought provoking and engaging on other levels. It will cause you to re-evaluate the pros and cons of an excessively busy life style and appreciate your family. It’s also a book about relationships, demonstrating the healing power of friendship and forgiveness. In short, not quite as original as “Still Alice”, but equally as poignant. A heartwarming story about hope and persevering through darkness to see light again for those who enjoy good women’s fiction or those who know someone dealing with a brain injury. Highly recommend.
Book Club Talking Points: Talking Points:
Sarah’s strength in the face of adversity is certainly the main theme of this book. It’s inspirational to read about her struggle to make herself whole after her dramatic change in circumstances. Her husband’s support and thoughts are also noteworthy. There are also themes on mother-daughters ,the cost on relationships and family of today’s ultra busy life style and being in the moment and the acceptance that comes with it.
*Author Website: http://web.mac.com/lisagenova/Site_7/Lisa_Genova.html
*Other Books by Same Author: “Still Alice"
1. Is Sarah better off at the end of the novel than at the beginning? If so, in what ways?
2. Sarah has a series of anxious dreams in the nights leading up to the accident. How would you interpret these dreams? What do you think her subconscious is trying to tell her?
3. Is Sarah a better mother before or after the crash? How do you think she would answer that question? Consider the amount of time she spends with her kids, her ability to keep track of them, and the level of participation in their lives.
4. The second time Sarah and Bob meet with Charlie's teacher about his progress in class, they learn that he is the target of some bullying. Ms. Gavin tells them many children experience this whether or not they have disabilities. Do you agree with Charlie's teacher? Do disabilities like ADHD make a child more of a target than other kids?
5. Sarah's Type A personality seems like it should help her through her physical therapy, but her friend and therapist Heidi believes she needs to stop trying to "win" and learn how to "adjust." Do you agree? Do you think by adjusting to her new limitations, Sarah holds herself back from a quicker recovery?
6. If Sarah had recovered completely, do you think she would have gone back to her high pressured job at Berkley Consulting?
7. While Sarah is in the rehabilitation hospital, she and Heidi trade watches, even though Sarah's is clearly the more valuable of the two. Toward the end of the novel, Sarah notes that Heidi is still wearing her expensive watch, but never asks for it back. Why do you think she doesn't reclaim her watch?
8. After Sarah's accident, Bob uses his cell phone at least once while driving in the car with Sarah and their kids. Why do you think he does that? Do we sometimes make exceptions for ourselves and do something unhealthy or risky in the interest of saving time or getting more done (like texting or using a cell phone while driving) even when we know it is dangerous? Why do you think that is?
9. At one point Bob argues that he doesn't think Vermont is a place to live full time when they are young. He sees it as a place to spend their retirement. Do you agree? What are the benefits of living and raising a family in a suburban setting versus a rural one?
10.Which character do you identify with the most? Which the least? Who is your favorite?
11.Is Sarah's mother's response to Nate's death understandable or unreasonable?
12.What did Sarah miss out on by having such a withdrawn mother? If her mother had been more available, do you think Sarah would be as high achieving?
13.Sarah's trauma gives her a chance to reconnect with her estranged mother. Why is it so hard for Sarah to forgive her mother?
14.Can working mothers really have it all—a successful career, well-adjusted children, a great marriage, a sense of well-being, and personal happiness? Or is that a myth? Does something always have to give?
15.Sarah's work/life balance before her disability is weighted toward work, whereas after it is weighted toward her family. How would you categorize your own work-life balance? Does Left Neglected make you reconsider any of your career decisions?
16.The back cover states that the novel is "about what we ignore and neglect in ourselves, in our families, and in the world around us." What do you think you are neglecting in your life? Yourself? Your relationships? Your home? Your job? life.
Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.
Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son's teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it's a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.
A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.
A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.
Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.