What is it like to live with Alzheimer’s disease? To know that you have it, and are forgetting the everyday matters of life? To think that one day you will forget your children and your spouse?
Alice Howland is a psychology professor at Howard and has had great success in her field. She loves teaching and being a partner with her husband, also a Harvard professor. They have three beautiful children in their 20’s off on their own attending school or starting careers. Alice starts to forget things more often, cumulating in going for a run and not recognizing the neighborhood that she has been running through and living in most her life. She goes to a doctor to determine what is wrong and is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Alice breaks the news to her family and tries to make the best choices to still be able to live her life to the fullest before it is too late.
Still Alice is the March pick for the Kewaunee Library book club and we will be discussing it this week. I have been wanting to read this book for years and was glad to finally have an excuse to read it. I’ve previously read and enjoyed Left Neglected and Inside the O-Briens both by Lisa Genova. My Great-Grandpa Kile had Alzheimer’s Disease, and his daughter, my Grandma Stone had Dementia. Watching them battle through these diseases and the changes it made on them and their loved ones was heart breaking. My Great Grandpa and Grandma Kile were married for 67 years when he passed away. The last year or so he didn’t recognize my Grandma but called another lady at the Alzheimer’s home “Norma,” my Grandma’s name. I remember her softly crying when we would leave from a visit with Grandpa.
Alice has the disease at a much earlier age than my Great Grandpa who was in his 80’s battling the disease. As a professor of psychology, she is keenly aware of what is going to happen to her. I loved that she made her own group of other early on-set Alzheimer’s patients to support each other.I also enjoyed that the book was told from her point of view as she declined with the disease. I was both amazed and infuriated by the reactions of her family. I love that her strained relationship with her youngest daughter seems to strengthen with the disease. I felt for her husband, but was also infuriated by decisions that he made. It would be a very difficult situation to be in.
“Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn’t mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, see they have a beautiful life. Alice liked remembering that.”
“Her sense of Alice – what she knew and understood, what she liked and disliked, how she felt and perceived – was also like a soap bubble, ever higher in the sky and more difficult to identify, with nothing by the thinnest lipid membrane protecting it from popping into thinner air.”
“There is no peace in being unsure of everything all of the time. I miss doing everything easily. I miss being a part of what’s happening. I miss feeling wanted. I miss my life and my family. I loved my life and family.”
Overall, Still Alice was a touching look at Alice’s battle with early on set Alzheimer’s and how it affected her and her family. I like that this book brings Alzheimer’s into focus and into discussion. I feel like this disease and Dementia are not understood and the victims are often blamed for something they can’t control. Or forgotten because it’s easier to deal with that way.
Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library