Inside the O’Briens

Thoughts itobbylg by Lisa Genova, Gallery Books 2015, 343 pages

“Hope is the thing with feathers that reaches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson”

RATING: Five slices of pie.

FOR:  My neighborhood book club. Meeting is first week of October 2015.

What’s it ABOUT: I hate to assume but I do know many of my readers are familiar with Lisa Genova. She is the author of Still Alice, recently brought to film and hot in the latest Academy Awards race which culminated in a Best Actress win for Julianne Moore. I have yet to see the movie.

Still Alice was Genova’s debut novel and I had the privilege to meet her at a book reading on Cape Cod in 2009. Shocked, I am, that it was that long ago! But not really, considering that THIS book, Inside the O’Briens, is Genova’s FOURTH book. She is on her way to being and remaining a celebrated author and I expect we will be entertained and educated on more neurological disorders in the future.

“A silence fills the room like a flash flood, and they’re all submerged, breathless.”

Yes, she has a genre; could be considered one of the best of the “disease fiction” novelists (the only one that comes to mind at the moment) — if that is a thing. (There are many shelves in goodreads pertaining to this theme.) In all of her books, Genova tackles an issue, usually based on a little known or rare neuropathology, and humanizes the situation extremely well. She brings it to life where we not only understand the problems, consider the heartaches, but also relate to the fear AND hope. Providing HOPE is especially difficult to do and she manages it somehow. She also reminds me to be compassionate and kind.

Still Alice discusses Early Onset Alzheimers. Left Neglected showcases a disorder known a Left Neglect – in this one, the protagonist suffers a brain injury. Love Anthony tackles autism – this is the only book I have yet to read. All are set in Massachusetts.

Inside the O’Briens brings awareness to the rare genetic Huntington’s Disorder (HD). We meet a Boston cop who lives in Charlestown MA and his family and friends. Yes, I cried. And yet I didn’t cry at the end. Maybe I was all cried out by then, but also, Genova leaves us with a plan to be hopeful and knowledgeable. In the epilogue, she provides an opportunity to support the research to find a cure. In my opinion, the most difficult part of these kinds of books is the balance between providing too much information about the disorder and describing what the people are feeling. I never felt that I was encountering an educational treatise (“Here is a scary fact, now go feel something.”). I never felt manipulated. All of it felt real and skillfully plotted and revealed.

We not only learn about HD, we learn about what it is like to be a police officer in Boston. We learn about yoga, we learn about Charlestown. This author is excellent at creating that sense of place. It helps that I am familiar with this area but I don’t think anyone else who hasn’t visited Boston would feel any setting loss. She is that good. I have to admit that one of my slices of pie is for that skill Genova has to allow me into the lives of fictional people who seem totally real; I am inside fully developed characters and immersed into their thoughts and fears and dreams. This is a successful book.

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HAVE YOU READ A BOOK BY LISA GENOVA? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?  This might be mine. I liked Still Alice a bit more than Left Neglected.

*NOTE* – I read Still Alice as a first book when joining a new book club and this will be the first book for a new club, too. I’m beginning to see a connection! It doesn’t take much for me to see connections… What it might mean, I have no clue.

**SECOND NOTE** – I had a status update in goodreads for page 239 that mentions my concern with the last paragraph but I returned the book to the library. Here’s hoping that edition will be at the club meeting so I can refer to it.

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12 thoughts on “Inside the O’Briens

  1. I never thought of diseases falling into a genre but you’re right. Especially with this author which was not apparent to me until you spelled it out here. I haven’t read any of her books because of the disease thing.

  2. I have read all 3 of her other books, and loved all of them. Still Alice is still my favourite, but I haven’t read this one yet… It’s on my list of library books to put on hold (yes, that’s different from my list of books already on hold. I try to prevent them from all coming in at once). Unfortunately that list is pretty long, but if this is like her others, it shouldn’t take too long to read. Glad you liked it so much.
    I saw the movie of Still Alice a few weeks ago. It’s not as good as the book (of course), but was well done. Very sad. I don’t like the actor who plays her husband, though.

  3. I remember when Still Alice came out, but I haven’t read any of her books. Disease fiction – I guess it is a genre. It sounds like she does it quite well. I should probably try Left Neglected.

    1. The thing is… the whole idea of a disease genre is distasteful and yet her books are informative important and fascinating! Left Neglect is utter wildness to the complexities of the brain but Still Alice and this one (O’Briens) is better at the liking the people part. So just try this one and let yourself feel and since you are a writer, watch the crafting.

  4. Pingback: The Post In Which I Rank My Top Rated Books of 2015 | Care's Online Book Club

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