Still Alice is the award winning New York Times fiction bestseller by Lisa Genova. A first time novelist, Genova holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is affiliated with the National Alzheimer’s Foundation. As an English professor, I was intrigued by the book about Alice Howland, a fifty year old Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alice is an accomplished academic, happily married, and the mother of three adult children. Early in the novel, she becomes perplexed as to why she is misplacing things, getting lost on routine runs, and forgetting familiar words. She is stunned to learn that she has Alzheimer’s disease and grapples with the fact that she will slowly be losing her mind. Ultimately, everything she has worked for in life is slowly taken away. Alice struggles to come to grips with the gradual loss of her cognitive functions and her family must adapt to a new dynamic in their relationship. I became completely engrossed in her story and felt compelled to wonder what I would do in her situation. How would I react if I received such a diagnosis or had to take care of a family member with this horrible illness? After reading Still Alice, my heart goes out to the people who are suffering from this disease. In Alice’s words, “This last part of your life, the part with Alzheimer’s and this end that you’ve carefully chosen, is tragic, but you did not live a tragic life.”
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The Good Thief (Hannah Tinti, 2008)
Over the holiday break, I decided to branch out from reading memoirs and found The Good Thief, the debut novel of writer, Hannah Tinti. On the back cover, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love described this book as, “a beautifully composed work of literary magic,” and I was sold. The author grew up in Salem, MA (the site of the famous witch trials) and chose 19th century New England as the setting of her story. The main character in the novel is an eleven year old orphan named Ren and his most noted characteristic is that he is missing his left hand. Ren and his friends, twin brothers Brom and Ichy long for a family to adopt them from Saint Anthonys Rectory before they are sent into the army. Ren’s rescuer arrives in the form of Benjamin Nab, a charismatic, stealthy adventurer and as Ren comes to learn, con man. Tinti was inspired to write the story after learning of the now extinct profession of resurrection men; people who stole bodies from graves and sold them to medical institutions for the research and training of doctors. Ren, Benjamin, and former schoolteacher, Tom, travel to the town of North Umbrage and frantic adventures ensue. Along the way, they encounter many unique characters such as swarthy, eccentric landlady, Mrs. Sands and her reclusive dwarf brother; Dolly the lovable hit man; McGuinty, the evil wealthy owner of the mousetrap factory, his mousetrap girls and his henchmen the hat boys. The book has been described as a blend of Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Although I usually prefer memoirs, The Good Thief was an engrossing tale that I read in a few days. Tinti has written is an excellent work of fiction and I believe it would be interesting to adolescents as well as adults. The book is a wonderful story set in New England to read on the cold winter nights ahead of us. Enjoy!