From a study in Alzheimer’s to a portrait of brain injury

Lisa Genova is the author of a recent bestseller, Still Alice; a sad and sometimes frightening look at early onset Alzheimer disease.

Left Neglected

By Lisa Genova

Gallery Books

Lisa Genova is the author of a recent bestseller, Still Alice; a sad and sometimes frightening look at early onset Alzheimer disease.

This, her second novel, is a very readable story about a woman, Sarah Nickerson, who is on the fast track. Her job is busy, her family is busy, her husband, Bob, works long hours. These people are achievers, type A, 24/7, goers. Life is one big rush hour.

Sometimes if things get too hectic at work, Sarah closes her office door and just cries quietly for a few minutes.

This rushing about means they have lots of money, at least they have a home in an affluent suburb of Boston and a weekend place in Vermont, where they ski. They have a college student who cares for their children, Charlie, Lucy and Linus. They are living the American dream.

One day on her drive to work, Sarah trying to phone Harvard Business School on her cell phone, everything changes.

She looks up from the phone to a line of red tail lights, and she can’t stop, and her air bag explodes, and her head hurts, really hurts.

Sarah wakes up with quite a degree of debilitation, and eight weeks of therapy on her insurance.

Her mother and Sarah have had a creaky relationship so when mom comes to help, that’s difficult. Bob’s job suddenly seems less than secure and that’s a worry, and Sarah isn’t aware of anything that is on her left side. That is the worst of all.

Their money problems will be better when Sarah’s back to work. Her office wants her back, badly. Part time even… say, 40 hours? Trouble is, she can’t dress herself, or drive, or even walk very well.

As with her first book, Genova likes to educate us about the things that can happen. When Dr Alice Howland, is diagnosed with Alzheimer disease in Still Alice, we checked our recent forgetfulness to see if it qualified. After reading this novel, we may check our lives for stress and maybe feel a bit guilty about using the phone, even briefly, when driving.

The story is narrated by Sarah, the powerhouse, in this family group. They’ll get through this… of course they will. It’s what they do best.

Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.