My hunch is I’m one of the few who feels the way I do about this book. Let’s see if I’m right…
Admittedly, until we chose this as our March book I wasn’t going to read it. Mainly because the idea of this happening to someone I love made me want to ignore anything having to do with it.
Plus, after hearing what a handful of my friends thought of “Still Alice,” my fears of this being an emotional and heartbreaking read were only amplified.
So I readied myself with a box of tissues, a few hours of privacy, and got to reading.
But I was actually surprised by how unemotional it left me. As someone who cries easily, I expected to be more moved by Alice’s story and have spent some time trying to figure out why I wasn’t. I think a big part of it is because it was told from her point of view, we didn’t experience much of how the family was affected. And with this type of disease, that’s arguably the hardest part.
I was also hoping to connect to Alice and her story on a personal level, since I myself live with a disease – one that, like Alzheimer’s, doesn’t have a cure. But there’s a big difference between cystic fibrosis – a disease that can be very physically difficult but leaves your mind untouched – and Alzheimer’s.
One thing that did really resonate with me was the significance of the butterfly (something I wish was used a little more throughout the story).
“She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. 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.”
This perspective, that a life isn’t measured by its length but rather by its depth, is something I hold on to when things get hard. It’s also a good reminder of what matters: HOW we live our life and the richness of each day, rather than the age we get to reach.
I hope I’m not coming off as too cold-hearted. I definitely felt saddened and sympathetic to Alice’s horrific situation. I just wasn’t as emotionally impacted as I thought I would be judging from others’ reactions. Kind of like how people talk and talk and talk about how amazing a movie is, making it impossible to live up to.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend others add it to their “to read” lists. It was a super quick read, one that had me anxiously turning the pages.
Don’t forget to chime in on our group discussion! And stay tuned for April’s pick.
I did cry at certain parts of the book that brought back the memory of my mother-in-law struggling with this disease in the late 80s. No one could seem to diagnosis her. She went from doctor to doctor and was given every diagnosis from manic depression to hypochondriac. I look back now and realized how much she suffered with the lack of information at the time.
Still Alice shows the early stages which are not pretty but pale by the comparison to late stage Alzheimer’s. It was a very painful way to see someone go.
This book did give me hope that the understanding of the disease is making some progress, although too slow for those faced with the diagnosis.
All in all I think it was a good read. It combined a clinical and personal approach to Alzheimer’s which was rare to capture.
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