And every once in a while (okay, in a very long while) a book will jump up and grab me by the throat. Or, perhaps more accurately, the gut.
I read a lot, good books, so-so books, really good books. But those rare ones that really grab me - they hang on, they hurt and they tend not to want to let go.
It's been awhile since I've experienced that, though. And, the last time it happened, I ended up in The Deep End.
Having just come off my second P.T. Deuterman book (damm, that man can write!), I thought I might be in the mood for something a little different. I wasn't quite sure what though.
I am really into audiobooks as of late and if I am going to spend a credit on a book, I tend to make sure it's a lengthy one. None of those abridged versions for me ... who the hell even decides what stays in and what goes out?
So I'm not sure why I purchased Still Alice. Not sure exactly when either. But the strange thing is it's a short book. Only seven hours. Ever hear of small but mighty?
Yeah, about that.
I identified with this book on so many levels and alternated between laughing and crying my way through it - yes, even once, at the same time. Then again, that is one of my sayings - Some say that if you can either laugh or cry, you might as well laugh. Me? I prefer to do both at once.
Alice just turned 50. For 25 years she has been a psychology professor at Harvard University. [Park the car in Harvard yard - sorry, side joke for any lost Bostonians in our midst.]
Happily married to a biology prof at Harvard. Three young adult children - all successful professionals ... okay, with the exception of her youngest who has deserted the life of academia to take up an acting career. But pretty much a perfect life.
Near the beginning of the story, Alice is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. This is the story of how Alice (and her family) comes to terms (or not) with that diagnosis and the progression of the disease. Because progress it does. It's heartbreaking in many places. And equally humorous in others.
But I found myself identifying with
Which is why, in so many places, the story grabbed hold of my stomach and twisted. Hard. Although not told in the first person, the book paints the story from Alice's point of view. I was familiar enough with the
Surprisingly (or not), I also found myself identifying with the story in other way. Being a Harvard psychology professor, specializing in the cognition of linguistics, and a respected highly sought-after guest lecturer around the world, we might presume that Alice is just a wee bit on the intelligent side. A hell of a lot smarter than me, that's for sure. And yet I could identify with being proud and confident of that academic side, of defining yourself, at least somewhat, by your work. You can imagine how devestating it was for Alice.
And although I am not too worried about dementia, personally, early onset or otherwise (although the book did make me ponder the fact that both my mother and grandmother experienced dementia to some degree before their deaths), I can identify with the concept of a hidden disability. A completely uncontrollable, unpredictable enemy that can throw your life into a tailspin without a moment's notice. One that (fortunately only very occasionally for me) can rob you of your ability to find the words you need and/or the ability to process thoughts at the level and speed you're accustomed to.
MS isn't Alzheimer's, thank God.
And yet, as I have recently discoverd, it can affect a person cognitively, as well as phsyically. Luckily for me, on those rare occasions when it has, it would seem that others don't notice. But I certainly do.
Not only do I find it frustrating and irritating, but it's also very scary. For the simple reason that, I suppose much like Alice, I tend to define myself, at least in part, by my 'book smarts'. And if I'm trying to work my way through a research problem or, worse yet, talk to a client and my mind can't clear out the fuzz or find the words needed to express what I need to say ... yeah, let's just say it's not so good.
There's about 45 minutes left in my audiobook. Which means, I suppose, that there are about 45 mintues left in Alice's life. Alzheimer's being a progressive, debilitating, ultimately fatal disease.
I don't want to