still alice

Review: Alzheimer's, grief, and Lisa Genova's "Still Alice"

Book: Still Alice by Lisa Genova - the story of Harvard psychology professor Alice Howland and her experiences with Alzheimer's disease.

Still Alice captures so many elements heartbreakingly well - the helplessness, the initial denial and attempts to reverse things, the frustration and emotion involved therewith.

I learned the other day (thanks, new music therapy textbook!) that Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief was not originally meant to describe the grief of the bereaved, but that of those nearing the end of their lives. These are fleshed out and given life without the specific labels in this book through the beginning of Alice's journey with Alzheimer's disease to the end.

This story and the way it is written are powerful. I cried and cried for Alice, for her family, for everyone who has and had and is going through this, for people I know who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, for the cruelty of death and the taking away of all the things we hope and dream of eventually. Many books romanticize the actual experience of having a terminal illness - Still Alice shows us both the beauty still found in Alice's life and the cruel reality of the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's. The things that we can get out of this book extend beyond knowledge of Alzheimer's itself, but also the people who have them, their caregivers, and the power of love and meaning that permeates our lives in different ways as circumstances - and as we - change.