Book Review – Still Alice

I always read any book suggested by my friend Gopal Ranjan as he always finds really good ones. I saw that he had read this book “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova and had shared that it was a must read on Facebook so I bought it just before we left for Mongolia. I read it in Mongolia and it just made me sad because it was a real life story and we know so little about Alzheimer’s ….

When any of us above 40 has a memory lapse, we joke about it but for those that suffer from Alzheimer’s it’s no laughing matter. What is devastating is that there is no cure and the age at which one could be afflicted is as young as 50 !! Here’s an excerpt from the book on how the central character Alice feels at her 50th birthday celebration – 

“She was clearly older than forty, but she wouldn’t say she looked old. She didn’t feel old, although she knew that she was aging. Her recent entry into an older demographic announced itself regularly with the unwelcome intrusion of menopausal forgetting. Otherwise, she felt young, strong, and healthy.”

With women, there is also things that we easily attribute to Menopause !!.

One of my friend’s father suffered from Alzhiemers and I have heard from her about how it was so tough to deal with  … Just a couple of weeks back, in Chennai, we went to meet a couple who are both very dear friends. The husband is now diagnosed with Alzhiemer’s and it was so difficult to see our active friend, just sitting quietly like a child on good behaviour and not knowing who we were. A tiny flicker of recognition of Krishnan but none of me. He has known Krishnan for 28 long years and has known me for 25 of those 28.. Ever since I married Krishnan. Both he and his wife had attended our wedding and we have met so often till we were in Chennai. He is the same man on the outside … But inside, he remembers very little. It’s really a cruel twist of fate or karma and Alzhiemers affects not just the one who has it, but the entire family suffers. Friends very often don’t know how to empathise and usually just stay away..

Here are a few more lines from the book.. It’s a conversation Alice is having with her husband – “I’m so sorry I have this. I can’t stand the thought of how much worse this is going to get. I can’t stand the thought of looking at you someday, this face I love, and not knowing who you are.” 

The next few lines are scary, but so true with patients suffering from Alzhiemer’s – “ALICE KNEW THAT THE YOUNG woman sitting across from her was her daughter, but she had a disturbing lack of confidence in this knowledge. She knew that she had a daughter named Lydia, but when she looked at the young woman sitting across from her, knowing that she was her daughter Lydia was more academic knowledge than implicit understanding, a fact she agreed to, information she’d been given and accepted as true.”

Alzhiemer’s has a deep impact on the family and loved ones…. The book captures the various stages beautifully and sensitively. One can only hope there is some cure for Alzhiemer’s and research in this space is more important than all the anti-ageing pills that are discovered !.

Do read the book.. It helps you deal with your own emotions when any family member or friend is afflicted with Alzhiemer’s. They are “Still Family” or “Still a Friend”. 

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