Ch.174 Reading “Still Alice.”
“Well, this could be interesting,” I thought, as I read an announcement for a “tough book” book club that meets monthly at the Eau Claire Public library. I signed up for it and then received a note announcing that this month’s book selection was “Still Alice,” by Lisa Genova. This is a story about a woman named Alice, a brilliant Harvard University professor, who develops early Alzheimer’s Disease in her late forties. In the next two years Alice becomes increasingly forgetful, loses her ability to think abstractly, gets physically lost several times, cannot identify her children, loses her employment, etc. I’d started the book once before and tried to watch the movie but both times I had quickly retreated. It was too painful considering Pat’s Lewy Body struggles.
This time I did get through it. In fact, I started and finished it this morning in one manic four-hour stint. So many episodes in Alice’s fictional life paralleled the all too realistic events in Pat’s life. Alice getting lost a few blocks from her home equated with Pat calling me to help her find her way home from our office; Alice forgetting her children’s names reminded me of Pat’s inability to say even my name; Alice resigning her job compared and contrasted with Pat’s being forced to resign because she couldn’t do her job any longer; Alice’s husband John’s denial and minimization followed by anguish and finally a measure of acceptance was a journey I travelled.
Reading this book helped me see better what was happening to Pat from the perspective of the “patient” rather than from that of husband and care partner. Alice recognizes what is happening to her as it happens. She counts her losses and understands that these losses are permanent and that there be many more ahead. And, just as with Pat, Alice seems to be able to accept her fate even as the people who love her struggle to do the same.
The “Tough Book” club meets in two days. I plan to attend, hoping I won’t break down in tears.