Still Alice - Lisa Genova Is the part of my brain that's responsible for my unique 'me-ness' vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer's? I believe it is.

I read this book for three reasons. 1) I have never read a book about Alzheimer's disease, 2) For personal reasons, I have an interest in Alzheimer's, and 3) It has an incredibly high average rating on goodreads. That being said, I have to confess that I didn't really go into this expecting to like it. I picked it up from the library so I wouldn't have to spend money on it and so I could return it quickly when I realised it was nothing more than the regular Nicholas Sparks in particular and the way the author's background working with abuse victims helped her have a deeper understanding of the characters she was dealing with and the story she was telling. Genova holds a Harvard PHD in Neuroscience and there is a surety and confidence in her scientific explanations of the disease that makes this fact evident in her writing. She knows the small details of what she's talking about and so the bigger picture is naturally more convincing.

On a personal note, there is a history of Alzheimer's in my family. I don't understand it enough to know whether it's genetic or a coincidence that many of the women on my mother's side have suffered from the disease. I do know my mum is afraid of it, though she doesn't talk about it often. But every time she forgets where she put something she was holding just minutes ago, every time she reaches for a word - a word she uses every day - and it slips away, just out of her grasp, every single time she wonders if it's a sign of something more serious than getting older and having a busy schedule. It's this small scale stuff that makes the novel so terrifying. We could all be Alice. We all forget small things every day, that's just a fact and it happens to everyone, but what if one day those forgotten memories don't come back straight away? And the next time, what if they go a bit longer? The progression from the small things to the more serious stages of the disease is truly scary.

This book is frightening on both a biologial and psychological level. When I think of Alzheimer's, I think of forgotten memories, of faces you can't put a name to, of everyday places that seem unfamiliar. But the author's haunting descriptions of the biological truth are entirely different and frightening on a whole new level. I don't think about what is really happening in the brain, neurons being destroyed bit by bit, dying some more every day, eroding pieces of who you are. Memories, for me, are those things that disappear for a while but come back to you later. But Alzheimer's doesn't make you forget memories, it goes in and completely destroys them. As if they were never there.

And that is the important question for Alice: how much can she lose and still be herself? If our entire personalities are built from memories, sensory experiences, from the things we've said and done, who are we when we no longer remember any of that? How can you make today matter when tomorrow you won't even remember it? It's a sad book but it doesn't fail to leave you with a glimpse of light in the darkness too. But I'll leave you to find out what that is for yourself.

The final comment I'd like to make is not so much a criticism of the book but a comment on what I'd personally like to see on this subject in the future. As I said at the beginning, I've never read a book about Alzheimer's before and I may be missing a very good one that already exists, but I kept thinking while reading this that I'd like to read a story about someone who wasn't as successful as Alice. Alice gains comfort from the fact that she has had a fantastic career, a husband who loves her, and three intelligent children. She's obviously right to cling to all the good things in her life, but I wonder how the story would be different if told about a man or woman without Alice's financial prosperity. There has to be so many different stories and experiences to be told about this disease and I suddenly find myself wanting to read more of them.