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Still Alice

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Still Alice Cover

ISBN13: 9781439102817
ISBN10: 1439102813
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions:

1. When Alice becomes disoriented in Harvard Square, a place she's visited daily for twenty-five years, why doesn't she tell John? Is she too afraid to face a possible illness, worried about his possible reaction, or some other reason?

2. After first learning she has Alzheimer's disease, "the sound of her name penetrated her every cell and seemed to scatter her molecules beyond the boundaries of her own skin. She watched herself from the far corner of the room" (pg. 70). What do you think of Alice's reaction to the diagnosis? Why does she disassociate herself to the extent that she feels she's having an out-of-body experience?

3. Do you find irony in the fact that Alice, a Harvard professor and researcher, suffers from a disease that causes her brain to atrophy? Why do you think the author, Lisa Genova, chose this profession? How does her past academic success affect Alice's ability, and her family's, to cope with Alzheimer's?

4. "He refused to watch her take her medication. He could be mid-sentence, mid-conversation, but if she got out her plastic, days-of-the-week pill container, he left the room" (pg. 89). Is John's reaction understandable? What might be the significance of him frequently fiddling with his wedding ring when Alice's health is discussed?

5. When Alice's three children, Anna, Tom and Lydia, find out they can be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's, only Lydia decides she doesn't want to know. Why does she decline? Would you want to know if you had the gene?

6. Why is her mother's butterfly necklace so important to Alice? Is it only because she misses her mother? Does Alice feel a connection to butterflies beyond the necklace?

7. Alice decides she wants to spend her remaining time with her family and her books. Considering her devotion and passion for her work, why doesn't her research make the list of priorities? Does Alice most identify herself as a mother, wife, or scholar?

8. Were you surprised at Alice's plan to overdose on sleeping pills once her disease progressed to an advanced stage? Is this decision in character? Why does she make this difficult choice? If they found out, would her family approve?

9. As the symptoms worsen, Alice begins to feel like she's living in one of Lydia's plays: "(Interior of Doctor's Office. The neurologist left the room. The husband spun his ring. The woman hoped for a cure.)" (pg. 141). Is this thought process a sign of the disease, or does pretending it's not happening to her make it easier for Alice to deal with reality?

10. Do Alice's relationships with her children differ? Why does she read Lydia's diary? And does Lydia decide to attend college only to honor her mother?

11. Alice's mother and sister died when she was only a freshman in college, and yet Alice has to keep reminding herself they're not about to walk through the door. As the symptoms worsen, why does Alice think more about her mother and sister? Is it because her older memories are more accessible, is she thinking of happier times, or is she worried about her own mortality?

12. Alice and the members of her support group, Mary, Cathy, and Dan, all discuss how their reputations suffered prior to their diagnoses because people thought they were being difficult or possibly had substance abuse problems. Is preserving their legacies one of the biggest obstacles to people suffering from Alzheimer's disease? What examples are there of people still respecting Alice's wishes, and at what times is she ignored?

13. "One last sabbatical year together. She wouldn't trade that in for anything. Apparently, he would" (pg. 223). Why does John decide to keep working? Is it fair for him to seek the job in New York considering Alice probably won't know her whereabouts by the time they move? Is he correct when he tells the children she would not want him to sacrifice his work?

14. Why does Lisa Genova choose to end the novel with John reading that Amylix, the medicine that Alice was taking, failed to stabilize Alzheimer's patients? Why does this news cause John to cry?

15. Alice's doctor tells her, "You may not be the most reliable source of what's been going on" (pg. 54). Yet, Lisa Genova chose to tell the story from Alice's point of view. As Alice's disease worsens, her perceptions indeed get less reliable. Why would the author choose to stay in Alice's perspective? What do we gain, and what do we lose?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. If you'd like to learn more about Alzheimer's or help those suffering from the disease, please visit www.actionalz.org or www.alz.org.

2. The Harvard University setting plays an important role in Still Alice. If you live in the Cambridge area, hold your meeting in one of the Harvard Square cafŽs. If not, you can take a virtual tour of the university at: http://www.hno.harvard.edu/tour/guide.html

3. In order to help her mother, Lydia makes a documentary of the Howlands' lives. Make one of your own family and then share the videos with the group.

4. To learn more about Still Alice or to get in touch with Lisa Genova, visit www.StillAlice.com.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 13 comments:

Scooter, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Scooter)
Written in the first person, this novel describes the onset and progress of Alzheimer's disease in the life of a university professor. She is aware of the onset of the disease but can do nothing to slow its effects.
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Kathy L Parkin, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Kathy L Parkin)
This was an excellent book about a woman's horrific struggles with Early Onset Alzheimer's. It was written in such a way that I didn't realize until I was quite a ways into the book that it is actually a work of fiction. The writing style was informative as far as the disease itself, but not above what the average person could understand. The best part of this book was seeing it from the eyes of the afflicted, as well as how it affects family and friends. Even though it is a work of fiction, this is a book I would recommend to anyone dealing personally with this terrible disease.
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awishart, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by awishart)
Best book ever! Everyone should read this book. Enlightening to all even if no Alzheimer's runs in your family. Just a great book.
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View all 13 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781439102817
Author:
Genova, Lisa
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Subject:
Alzheimer's disease
Subject:
Women college teachers
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Contemporary Women
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Alzheimer's disease -- Patients.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Alzheimer’s; Alzheimer’s novel; book club pick; Jodi Picoult; women’s fiction; neuroscience; women’s health; family drama; bestseller; Cape Cod; Harvard; neurology
Subject:
Alzheimer s; Alzheimer s novel; book club pick; Jodi Picoult; women s fiction; neuroscience; women s health; family drama; bestseller; Cape Cod; Harvard; neurology
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.44 in 13.51 oz

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Still Alice Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Pocket Books - English 9781439102817 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Neuroscientist and debut novelist Genova mines years of experience in her field to craft a realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland has a career not unlike Genova's — she's an esteemed psychology professor at Harvard, living a comfortable life in Cambridge with her husband, John, arguing about the usual (making quality time together, their daughter's move to L.A.) when the first symptoms of Alzheimer's begin to emerge. First, Alice can't find her Blackberry, then she becomes hopelessly disoriented in her own town. Alice is shocked to be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (she had suspected a brain tumor or menopause), after which her life begins steadily to unravel. She loses track of rooms in her home, resigns from Harvard and eventually cannot recognize her own children. The brutal facts of Alzheimer's are heartbreaking, and it's impossible not to feel for Alice and her loved ones, but Genova's prose style is clumsy and her dialogue heavy-handed. This novel will appeal to those dealing with the disease and may prove helpful, but beyond the heartbreaking record of illness there's little here to remember." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "With grace and compassion, Lisa Genova writes about the enormous white emptiness created by Alzheimer's."
"Review" by , "Heartbreakingly real.... So real, in fact, that it kept me from sleeping for several nights. I couldn't put it down....Still Alice is a story that must be told."
"Review" by , "This book is as important as it is impressive, and will grace the lives of those affected by this dread disease for generations to come."
"Review" by , "With a master storyteller's easy eloquence, Lisa Genova shines a searing spotlight on this Alice's surreal wonderland. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read this book. It will inform you. It will scare you. It will change you."
"Review" by , "Heartbreaking."
"Review" by , "After I read Still Alice, I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, 'You have to get this book.'"
"Synopsis" by , Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard University.

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...

Reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind, Ordinary People and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Still Alice packs a powerful emotional punch and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction.

"Synopsis" by , Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind...

Reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind, Ordinary People and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Still Alice packs a powerful emotional punch and marks the arrival of a strong new voice in fiction.

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