Still Alice...A review.
I have a rule. It's a tiresome one, but I value it so much: I refuse to watch a movie that has been based on a book unless I've read the actual book first. It makes the movies so much better ... I engage more with the choices the director has made. Why did they include this? Why didn't they include that? It makes the viewing experience much more interactive.
A short list of movies I haven't seen for this reason:
The Book Thief
The Secret Life of Bees
Snow Falling on Cedars
50 Shades of Grey (just kidding ... I have zero desire to ever watch this movie or read the books.)
I've gone back on this rule a few times, but never knowingly. This rule is what prompted me to add Still Alice to my library holds. I saw the movie trailer and instantly wanted to watch it.
The book is written from the perspective of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. I won't go into details, simply to avoid spoilers, but the real review is all about that perspective. We often read books about disease—surrounding it, the relationships it affects, how it changes someone's life. But I feel like it's rare to hear about this suffering from the actual sufferer. Particularly when it comes to a disease that deteriorates memory.
It makes sense: it's hard to write about an experience that someone has a hard time articulating. When words and explanations start to fade with other memories, I feel like the rest of us lose a certain level of communication and understanding. I admired the bravery of Lisa Genova in writing the book this way. It's bold to assume that role and voice, especially in the advanced stages of the disease.
But she committed to the choice, bringing a lot of dignity to the character and building a lot of empathy within the reader. I really enjoyed it, though it was a very sad story. It's never a bad thing to find reality within fiction if it makes you a better listener and empathizer. I would definitely recommend this one.
Who is this book for?
Medical professionals: Maybe. It won't tell them anything new about the disease, but it could give them a different perspective to help them see their patients differently.
People with family members with Alzheimer's: I don't know. I think it provides insight, but perhaps would be difficult to digest as well.
Teenagers: Yes. I think it would probably be a good high school book assignment.
What does this book say?
I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and don't know who my husband is? What if I don't know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that's responsible for my unique 'me-ness' vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer's? I believe it is.
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. Some tomorrow soon, I'll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I'll forget it some tomorrow doesn't mean that I didn't live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn't mean that today didn't matter.