We were incredibly moved by this beautiful and terrifying novel about a Alice, 50-year-old psychology professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Here’s why.
1. The Origin Story: While Lisa Genova was pursuing her PhD in neuroscience at Harvard University, her grandmother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Genova was able to understand the science of her grandmother’s diagnosis, but she had a hard time imagining what her grandmother actually felt, what she was going through. Through this insightful book, readers are able to imagine what it’s like to live with the disease.
2. The Emotional Power: It’s inevitable that readers will become emotionally invested in this novel—a testament to Genova’s powerful writing. Because the book is written from Alice’s perspective, you feel connected to her. It’s like you’re experiencing her life alongside her. And the trauma of her early diagnosis hits hard—but in a good way. There are so many special, emotionally charged moments in the book: when Alice doesn’t recognize her own daughter, when she forgets her own family recipe, or when she gets lost by herself on a run.
3. The Character’s Reactions: Through each of her characters, Genova dissects how different people may respond to a diagnosis. Her husband, also a scientist, resorted to denial. He struggled to learn how to be with his wife as the Alzheimer’s progressed and he buried himself in work. While it got harder for John to be with Alice, it was surprisingly easier for her children to be with her. Her relationship with her youngest daughter, an aspiring actress, especially grew. But all of their responses felt human and utterly relatable.
4. The Incredible Film Adaptation: While Wendy had the unique experience of sobbing through the movie while sitting next to her boss, other book club members love the movie just as much as the book. The actors were perfectly cast, and brought this emotion story home. Her next book, EVERY NOTE PLAYED, was actually inspired by the director of this movie, who was suffering from ALS.
5. The writing is so good. Don’t believe us? Here’s one of Elizabeth’s favorite quotes: “My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today doesn’t matter.”
For more book club discussion questions, check out the Reading Group Guide.