Thursday, May 14, 2015

Still Alice - A Movie and a Darn Good Book

Thanks to Julianne Moore, everybody knows what Still Alice is about.  I won't make you read a Goodreads synopsis.  If you've been hiding in a cave for the last year, all you need to know is that Alice Howland, "...a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics..." is developing early-onset alzheimer's at the age of 50.  In this case, I actually saw the movie 1st.  Normally, I wouldn't read the book, but it's the Los Gatos Library Book Club selection for May.  So I sucked it up, expecting to be a bit bored.  I was anything but.

What's particularly interesting about this book is that Genova self-published it in 2007.  It didn't take long for the publishing world to swoop in.  Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, re-published it in 2009.  It has sold a million and a half copies!  Those are crazy numbers.  But despite the fact that I don't always like the "best-sellers," I really liked this one.  It was well-written and easy to read, an oftentimes unusual combination.

Did I emotionally connect with the characters?  Uh, yeah.  Especially Alice.  Page 10 is the 1st indication of a problem, and I was already feeling it.  And the writing paints a vivid picture.  This, when Alice and her youngest child (a daughter, with an older sister and brother) see each other after a time apart:

"They each hesitated before they hugged, as if they were about to practice a newly learned dance and weren't quite confident of the first step or who should lead.  Or it was an old dance, but they hadn't performed it together in so long that each felt unsure of the choreography."

On top of that, I ran the gamut of emotions.  I had big smiles, head shakes, and a certain amount of cringing.  And there were tears.  In fact, there was one scene where I actually had them rolling down my face.  The bad news is that I was on the treadmill at the gym when this happened.  The good news is that I had a towel so that I could quickly wipe away the evidence!

There were 3 different references that I could relate directly to my experiences:

1.  They mention the T.  Our younger daughter went to Boston University for 4 years, and our older daughter lived and worked there for 2.  We had lots and lots of T rides.
2.  Alice wonders how her husband would have handled the child-related activities that she was responsible for - including singing The Wheels on the Bus over and over.  My wife, Joni, sang that song to our kids and grandkids a whole bunch.
3.  As Alice's condition deepens, there is a time when her family members are talking about her like she's not there.  She speaks up and says "What about me?"  This happens to be what our 2-year old granddaughter likes to say, fortunately not for the same reason as Alice.  Josie is simply someone who will not be ignored.

The only other thing to mention here is that if you do read it, I would strongly recommend that you also read the Q&A with Genova at the end.  It is very illuminating.  And I definitely recommend this book.  I gave it a 3.25/4.  It might have been a 3.5 if I had not already seen the movie.  Either way, read this one.

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