Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease changes her life.
Book Club Ideas
As suggested by Lisa Genova, the perfect setting for a book club party for Still Alice would be in a cafe in Harvard Square.
Alice’s favorite piece of jewelry was a blue butterfly necklace with blue gems on the wings, silver body and diamond studded antennae that was her mother’s. Her mother used to wear it only on her anniversary and to weddings, and like her, Alice had reserved it exclusively for special occasions. After her diagnosis and since she didn’t have any formal affairs on her calendar, she wore it with jeans and a tshirt.
When Alice was upset to learn that butterflies only live for a few days her mother comforted her by saying that just because their lives were short, didn’t mean they were tragic. Watching them fly in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, See, they have a beautiful life. (page 111)
Book Club Menu
To help save her brain, Alice ate blueberries and dark chocolate and drank red wine and green tea. Alice’s drink of choice was a tea with lemon, iced or hot, depending on the season.
While out visiting her daughter in LA, Alice ordered a merlot and her daughter Lydia ordered an espresso martini (pg 14). This Espresso Martini is made with chocolate which gives it a boost of antioxidants.
Alice made White Chocolate Bread Pudding every Christmas Eve since she was a young girl and hadn’t needed to refer to the recipe in years. This Christmas Eve however was different. She could remember the ingredients – vanilla extract, a pint of heavy cream, milk, sugar, white chocolate, a loaf of challah bread, eggs – but not how much to use of each or how the recipe came together. I based my recipe on her ingredients in easy to remember quantities.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 4.23 stars (45622 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.7 stars (611 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 4.24 stars (193 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.75 stars. I was initially reluctant to read this story since I couldn’t imagine how a story of someone with early onset Alzheimer’s could end on a happy note so I felt like I had to wait until I was in the mood for it. I am so glad I finally read it. Although definitely sad at times, Lisa Genova managed to tell a moving and inspirational story that I highly recommend.|
- How do you think Alice handles her diagnosis? How about her husband and each of her kids?
- If given the possibility of getting tested for a gene that could tell you if you had a degenerative or terminal disease, would you? Would you want a family member tested?
- If you were diagnosed with a degenerative or terminal disease would you make your own version of a “butterfly file”? What if you found out a loved one who was ill had such a file? Would it change the way you cared for them?
- If you know someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, was this a difficult read? Did it change your perspective on the disease?
- In your experience, was Lisa Genova’s portrayal of someone with Alzheimer’s true to life?
Here are a few of the questions that are included in the back of Still Alice:
- 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?
- “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?
- 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?
- 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?
- “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?
- 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?
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, you can visit www.alz.org
Purchase Still Alice at your favorite bookseller
|Lisa Genova is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Left Neglected and Still Alice. She graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University. She travels worldwide, speaking about the causes, treatments, ways to prevent, and what it feels like to live with Alzheimer’s Disease. She has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, The Diane Rehm Show, CNN, Chronicle, Fox News, and Canada AM and is featured in the documentary film, To Not Fade Away. She lives with her husband and three children in Cape Cod.|
Other Works by Author
Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…
My favorite part of the book is the whole speech Alice gives at The Dementia Care Conference. Some of my favorite quotes:
“My brain no longer works well, but I use my ears for unconditional listening, my shoulders for crying on, and my arms for hugging others with dementia.”
“We can help each other, both people with dementia and their caregivers, navigate through this Dr. Seuss land of neither here nor there.”
“I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean today didn’t matter.”
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for Still Alice? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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