Friday, October 4, 2013

Still Alice

As food themes go, I'd like some credit for finding a wine called "Educated Guess" for a story about a Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer disease.

With that out of the way, let's talk about this book.

Heartbreaking, amazing, moving, scary and thought provoking.  These are just some of the comments from last nights discussion.

Alice is a respected and beloved Harvard professor who is asked to speak all over the world.  She notices that her reliance on her notes is becoming critical, so she gets it checked out.  The diagnosis, early onset Alzheimer's.

We follow her through the journey of telling her husband, her kids, having to step down at work and the shrinking of her social and physical world.   We are equally frightened of the truth regarding her situation and the terrible impact to Alice and her family.

Because the story is told from her perspective, as things become confusing or 'new' to her our understanding of the narrative shifts.  At first Alice is giving us the nuanced details of a complicated mother & daughter dynamic which eventually devolves into her describing her daughter as that woman with the baby.

Some of us powered through this book in a couple sittings and were moved to tears (me publicly on an airplane) and others were so torn apart by the devastation that they had to read it in small chunks just to not be brokenhearted.

Our appreciation for the research and effort put into this book is great.  We can understand why it is recommended to the caregivers of patients with early-onset Alzheimer's.  

This type of Alzheimer's has a high probability of being genetic, and if you have the gene the likelihood of developing the disease is almost certain.  The author explored the implications of these facts with Alice's three children.  Would you want to know?  It's hard to say.

Our discussion moved to assisted suicide, to estate planning and to the dreaded question of 'who will raise our kids if we're gone.  So many real life issues.

 The book was so well done that it is easy to think of it as non-fiction.  That's a compliment Miss Lisa Genova.  Good work!

Albert of Adelaide


If you want to sound like a crazy person, please describe the book Albert of Adelaide to someone.

Well, it's about this platypus who escapes from a zoo and heads to the Australian outback and along the way is embroiled in an old western shoot out, makes friends with a wombat and has to deal with a gang of kangaroos, thieves and deadly dingoes.  Yes, a gun slinging platypus.

It's been a while since we've read a western, and this one is superb.  The author Howard Anderson has written a fun, and engaging novel.

Our discussions ranged from surprise over the depth of appreciation for the story and the depth of character development to the nuances of social norms and mythical stature that grows when you only know one dimension about an individual.


And The Mountains Echoed

Khaled Hosseini has produced a third book that is equally worth reading.  Author of the Kite Runner and A thousand splendid suns, Hosseini tells us a winding story of intersecting lives that spans continents, generations and families.

Each chapter is told from a different persons point of view and slowly the truth about a father's dreadful choice becomes known and the broad impact unfolds.

We enjoyed this book and I'm sorry to have to admit that it's been 3 or 4 months since our discussion and any remarkable or notable comments from the group have been pushed aside in my memory.

We did note that the style of story telling was remarkably different than his other two novels, and that it took a while for some of us to realize that he was never going to circle back and repeat a narrator.  Freed of that expectation, the story began to crystallize as the characters started overlapping into the chapters and the overall story became clear.