I heard about Still Alice throughout Julianne Moore’s Academy Awards campaign. I’ve always liked to read the books movies (particularly critcally acclaimed movies) are based on- even if I never get around to watching the final film.
Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland: a happily married, mother of three. She is a professor at Harvard University whose story is told as her memory declines following an Early Onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As her memory fades the narration becomes less focused, the passages shorter and more vague.
Alice’s husband, John, is her reluctant caregiver. He’d rather throw himself into his work (as a distraction) than spend what time he does have with a semi lucid wife. There is a lot of denial in the beginning, first from Alice, then from John.
There is an emphasis on the Alzheimer’s patient and not just the caregiver. Alice actually starts her own support group for Early Onset patients after discovering there wasn’t one because they lacked resources and demand. More or less, the question is- do Alzheimer’s patients need support when they will eventually forget their diagnosis?
Alzheimer’s is a hopeless disease, one we tend to associate with people who have had the opportunity to live full lives and see their families grow up. Genova reminds us that it is an unfair disease as well. There is discussion on ‘would you want to know’ and the ramifications of bringing children into the world knowing what you could have them inherit.
“My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment.”
It’s a sad book; and given the source material I imagine Ms Moore’s Oscar was well deserved.