An extremely compelling novel, about a Harvard professor, who receives a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer ís when she is only 50. Still Alice by Lisa Genova - #fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

Still Alice

By Lisa Genova


PBR Book Review:

This is an extremely compelling novel, written in a sensitive and compassionate style that allows you to feel what it's like to be diagnosed and live with Alzheimer's disease. Prior to reading this when Alzheimer's was mentioned my thoughts and sympathy were always focused on the family, not the victim of this terrible disease, now my heart will go out to Alice.

The writing has such a personal feel to it that as Alice struggles with each new phase of this disease and comes to terms with the depth of what she is being robbed of, it is easy to forget it's fiction. It's absolutely heart wrenching to watch her slowly lose control of her mind and life, made even more tragic because she knows it's happening. The author also shows the effect on the family as hope for a cure becomes less and less a viable option. This emotional story will bring tears to your eyes and a passion for finding a cure for Alzheimer's


Book Club Talking Points:

This book is so touching and the voice of Alice so real, when finished you can't stop thinking and talking about it. As the cloud of Alzheimer's descends upon Alice, the simple clear writing style of Lisa Genova allows the reader to feel the full haunting impact of this disease. Any book club that enjoys beautifully written emotionally charged books will enjoy this one.
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*Discussion Questions



1. When Alice becomes disoriented in Harvard Square, a place she's visited daily for twenty-five years, why doesn't she tell John? Is she too afraid to face a possible illness, worried about his possible reaction, or some other reason?

2. After first learning she has Alzheimer's disease, "the sound of her name penetrated her every cell and seemed to scatter her molecules beyond the boundaries of her own skin. She watched herself from the far corner of the room" (pg. 70). What do you think of Alice's reaction to the diagnosis? Why does she disassociate herself to the extent that she feels she's having an out-of-body experience?

3. Do you find irony in the fact that Alice, a Harvard professor and researcher, suffers from a disease that causes her brain to atrophy? Why do you think the author, Lisa Genova, chose this profession? How does her past academic success affect Alice's ability, and her family's, to cope with Alzheimer's?

4. "He refused to watch her take her medication. He could be mid-sentence, mid-conversation, but if she got out her plastic, days-of-the-week pill container, he left the room" (pg. 89). Is John's reaction understandable? What might be the significance of him frequently fiddling with his wedding ring when Alice's health is discussed?

5. When Alice's three children, Anna, Tom and Lydia, find out they can be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's, only Lydia decides she doesn't want to know. Why does she decline? Would you want to know if you had the gene?

6. Why is her mother's butterfly necklace so important to Alice? Is it only because she misses her mother? Does Alice feel a connection to butterflies beyond the necklace?

7. Alice decides she wants to spend her remaining time with her family and her books. Considering her devotion and passion for her work, why doesn't her research make the list of priorities? Does Alice most identify herself as a mother, wife, or scholar?

8. Were you surprised at Alice's plan to overdose on sleeping pills once her disease progressed to an advanced stage? Is this decision in character? Why does she make this difficult choice? If they found out, would her family approve?

9. As the symptoms worsen, Alice begins to feel like she's living in one of Lydia's plays: "(Interior of Doctor's Office. The neurologist left the room. The husband spun his ring. The woman hoped for a cure.)" (pg. 141). Is this thought process a sign of the disease, or does pretending it's not happening to her make it easier for Alice to deal with reality?

10. Do Alice's relationships with her children differ? Why does she read Lydia's diary? And does Lydia decide to attend college only to honor her mother?

11. Alice's mother and sister died when she was only a freshman in college, and yet Alice has to keep reminding herself they're not about to walk through the door. As the symptoms worsen, why does Alice think more about her mother and sister? Is it because her older memories are more accessible, is she thinking of happier times, or is she worried about her own mortality?

12. Alice and the members of her support group, Mary, Cathy, and Dan, all discuss how their reputations suffered prior to their diagnoses because people thought they were being difficult or possibly had substance abuse problems. Is preserving their legacies one of the biggest obstacles to people suffering from Alzheimer's disease? What examples are there of people still respecting Alice's wishes, and at what times is she ignored?

13. "One last sabbatical year together. She wouldn't trade that in for anything. Apparently, he would" (pg. 223). Why does John decide to keep working? Is it fair for him to seek the job in New York considering Alice probably won't know her whereabouts by the time they move? Is he correct when he tells the children she would not want him to sacrifice his work?

14. Why does Lisa Genova choose to end the novel with John reading that Amylix, the medicine that Alice was taking, failed to stabilize Alzheimer's patients? Why does this news cause John to cry?

15. Alice's doctor tells her, "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on" (pg. 54). Yet, Lisa Genova chose to tell the story from Alice's point of view. As Alice's disease worsens, her perceptions indeed get less reliable. Why would the author choose to stay in Alice's perspective? What do we gain, and what do we lose?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


Book Club Talking Points:
This book is so touching and the voice of Alice so real, when finished you can't stop thinking and talking about it. As the cloud of Alzheimer's descends upon Alice, the simple clear writing style of Lisa Genova allows the reader to feel the full haunting impact of this disease. Any book club that enjoys beautifully written emotionally charged books will enjoy this one.


Book Summary
From New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes the definitive-and illuminating-novel about Alzheimer's disease. Now a major motion picture starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore! Look for Lisa Genova's latest novel Inside the O'Briens.

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 changes her life-and her relationship with her family and the world-forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer's, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember.

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.
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