Book Review – Still Alice

Still Alice is a novel about a fifty-year old woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. Alice is a Harvard professor in cognitive psychology. She is a brilliant woman who presents at several conferences around the world annually. She is at the height of her career when she begins noticing some forgetfulness, including names, words in conversation and where she puts things.  Alice finally decides to visit a doctor after she gets lost during one of her daily runs, a route she has taken for many years.

The story is written in such a way that it comes across as being told by Alice as if she was watching it happen to herself. The book goes through Alice’s initial struggle of not sharing the diagnosis with her husband or three adult children, to keeping it from her colleagues at Harvard, to realizing just how quickly she is declining, all while her husband is fighting his own battle of not being able to cope with his wife’s predicament. Alice begins to rely extensively on her BlackBerry, including more and more descriptive entries so she can remember what each one means. She even sets a daily alarm on her BlackBerry to ask herself five basic questions which, if she is unable to answer, she then directs herself to go to her computer and to open a specific file which outlines what she needs to do.

The story takes place over a two year period, showing the stages of Alice’s deterioration. As her dementia progresses, the idea of losing the ability to communicate is devastating. She at one point wishes she had cancer, a more hopeful diagnosis than Alzheimer’s. The story is heart breaking.

The author does a great job of getting across to her readers what it would be like to live with Alzheimer’s disease.  I think this is a great book and is very eye-opening to just what this terrible disease can do.  I would strongly recommend this book to anyone, whether or not you know someone with the disease, work with the elderly, or have a fear of getting the disease yourself.

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