Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lisa Genova - Not for Hypochondriacs!

Did any of you read Ms. Genova's Still Alice and not suspect that you were suffering from dementia at the very least, if not the beginnings of Alzheimer's? I know, I know, I read every article I can about how middle-aged folks shouldn't worry when they can't remember names or find their keys but...I'll never, ever forget that scene in the devastating film Iris, in which Judi Dench, as the writer Iris Murdoch, sits at her desk, staring out the window at a rabbit, and can't for the life of her remember what that poor creature is named.

Now Lisa Genova has given me something else to worry about - traumatic brain injury - in this case, a rare neurological disorder called Left Neglect. In her latest novel, Left Neglected, which I simply can't put down, the full power of her Harvard Phd. in neuroscience is on display.

I would call Sarah and Bob Nickerson a typically unlikeable yuppie couple who already have too much of everything and are scrambling for more, but then, how do I know what's "typical?" When they boast of working 18 hour days each, going to bed with their laptops and iphones, and then raising three kids under the age of 8 on top of that, I would say "you call that living?"

Bob and Sarah even play games of chance to decide who gets to NOT take the kids to school each day. On this particular morning, Sarah won. How many times have you looked away from the road for just a split second? Changing the CD in the player? Swiping at a bug? Sarah searches her purse for her cell phone, just think how much she can accomplish on her ride into Boston! But, when her eyes next connect with the road, traffic has stopped, she brakes, swerves, rolls, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Genova's novel may have too much technical information for some readers. Because of my fascination with all things medical, especially involving brain injury, I'm enjoying it immensely. Sarah's eyesight has not been affected by the accident yet her brain cannot "see" the left side of anything. Imagine it! It's difficult to think of all the ramifications of an injury of this magnitude for a mother of three. Eating, walking, dressing, reading, and writing, once taken for granted, must be relearned, much as it would if she had had a stroke.

Adding to the stress of regaining her life is the emergence of Sarah's estranged mother as her primary caregiver and cheerleader, a necessity since Bob is facing a company reorganization that may soon render him redundant. Slowly, as Sarah heals, the back story of her older brother's death and her mother's long slide into depression, reveals itself, leading to healing of another kind. As it does, readers begin to surmise the double meaning of "left neglected." I, on the other hand, was left to ponder whether or not I'd have Sarah's gumption and courage to claw back from such a devastating injury.


TooManyBooks said...

I absolutely loved Left Neglected! I think I liked it better than Still Alice, if that's possible!

Sallyb said...

I was asked if I wanted to lead a book disc. on this at Bonita Bay and then have lunch at Backwater Jack's. I'll be in Africa - would you like to come down and do it? I asked Beth and she never responded.