A few days ago I finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Powerful literature sends home a message that resonates with its readers and Genova’s writing has done just that.
Still Alice explores the life of a woman named Alice Howland, a linguistics professor, wife and mother, who learns she has the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. It follows her life experience by showing the reader what Alice was experiencing before she was diagnosed to the final stages of how Alzheimer’s disease impacted her life giving insight to what this disease really does to the body of its victims.
Disclaimer: No one close to me has suffered with this and so I was able to read this book as an objective reader instead of an inquiring, concerned family member. What I found fascinating was how Genova kept a reader like myself interested: by throwing in elements of crafty literature in the character development, plot and story structure that I could relate to.
Being able to relate to the character in the story as a person is what really resonated with me. Genova crafted the type of fictional character that if one could sit down to coffee with, one very well might. Now, a message from reality: This is the effect great literature leaves with its readers. A desire to know more about the character and their life and to see them on their journey from beginning to end.
I have at times forgotten why I walked in the kitchen only to walk back in twenty minutes later and push the brew button on my Keurig. No, it’s not the same thing as having alzheimers to be clear. This simple detail: That I could possibly relate to what it means to forget things, kept me reading.The more I read, the more wanted to know and understand more about the effect this has on people who do lose their memory to this horrible disease. I wanted to even on the surface grasp in effect, the tragic loss that comes with losing life as the victim knows it and see what losing memories of the ones they love really does to them. How does this affect them? Genova captures this effectively and with great passion in her words. What is the role of the friends and family members? I wanted to know more about the fictional characters whose lives were turned upside down.
Here’s why I think Genova’s first – time novel worked:
Genova explores family dynamics at its core when families are faced with providing care for a loved one whose diagnosis is a terminal illness. She builds her story bit by bit, word by word adding a new details around every corner. She avoids repetition in her literature. She avoids flashbacks but instead keeps the story moving forward and we unravel more about her career and family life as we go along. She uses colorful verbs and meaningful adjectives in her syntax. She says what she means in a way that readers can relate no matter whether they’ve heard of alzheimer’s a day in their life or not.
Like linguistics and learning about language? You’ll want to read this. Know someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? This book will inform you while entertaining your hunger for a great story. Are you a writer? Read this book. You will learn more about the craft of writing and how to create prose that readers will love by studying the successes in literature of those who came before you.
Want to learn more about Lisa Genova or Still Alice? Check out http://lisagenova.com/about-lisa/
Reading is an important part of being a successful writer. It expands your vocabulary, brings you into another world, it’s relaxing and at times other people telling their stories can inspire us to tell our own stories.
What book will you be reading next?