So, funny story. I’d heard vaguely of Still Alice a good bit recently on various sites and noticed some good reviews about it, so I knew it was about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. However, I also remember hearing about that same time that Ann B. Davis, kooky cook Alice from The Brady Bunch, had died. So, somehow, I connected the two in my brain. I don’t know if that is what Brady Bunch Alice died of, (goodness I hope not…hey, somebody Google that for me, whydoncha?) but these two Alice-type-things became irretrievably linked in my head.
Because of that weird linkage, I resisted reading Still Alice for a while because I couldn’t bear to watch Alice from the beloved TV show go through that disease in print. (Makes no sense, I know, but my brain does weird things like that sometimes!) Anyway, I got this book in paperback for Christmas (thank you, Adrianne!) and decided it was just the palate-cleanser I needed after Outlander and two short humor reads.
Still, even with that weird brain connection I was unprepared for this – a book full of the strange workings of a failing brain. It isn’t about Ann B. Davis at all, of course, but it is about a Harvard professor of linguistics who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer’s and then shit spirals out of control: she goes for a run but can’t remember how to get home, she is supposed to go teach a lecture but instead sits in the class with the students complaining that the professor (herself) didn’t show up, she puts Moby-Dick in the microwave and her BlackBerry in the freezer, she thinks her long-dead family members are going to walk into the door but can’t remember her own daughter, she thinks her carpet on the floor is an unbreachable hole, and she goes into a neighbor’s house to make tea thinking she is IN HER OWN HOUSE. And, it’s all so SAD.
I mean, yes, what else would you expect an Alzheimer’s novel to be, but it ends up being just tragic that this woman who spends her life investigating language and how the brain processes words, and she then loses all the words in her brain. To make it worse, she’s quite young for it and as she says, she can’t choose what to lose:
…I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease wll not be bargained with. I can’t offer it the names of the Unites States presidents in exchange for the names of my children. I can’t give it the names of the state capitals and keep the memories of my husband.
That’s just…awful. When I think of all the useless trivia taking up space in my head, I realize how terrible it would be if those things were all that was left to me and all the important memories and people were just erased. What a horrible, awful, terrible disease. And, let’s face it, old people make me sad anyway…but when relatively young ones get this as Alice does? I just can’t even imagine…
Anyway, this book is a bit of a downer for sure, but Still Alice (DEFINITELY not about The Brady Bunch Alice) is definitely and completely worth the read.
* I usually reject book covers with movie images because I prefer the original artwork. However, this was the version I read…and interestingly enough, this book will be a movie released later this month. And, in spite of Julianne Moore on the cover, I can’t help but think of Alice as the little curly-haired lady depicted in the novel. I just can’t picture someone like Clarice from Hannibal or President Coin in The Hunger Games as the main character for this. I’ll probably see this movie, and while I can see J.M. doing a good job in the role even though she doesn’t fit the physical description, overall (with Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart in it), my first impression of the film it is that it seems poorly cast.