Alice is a cognitive psychologist, Harvard professor, and expert in linguistics. At 50 years old, she is experiencing the peak of her career. Her husband John is also very successful, conducting biology research. They have three grown children, and aside from worrying about the one who is pursuing an acting career instead of traditional college, they are happy with the way their kids turned out. Life has a hectic but fulfilling rhythm to it.
Then one day Alice abruptly finds herself unable to remember her way home. Other little incidents begin to happen, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. After various doctors’ visits and a number of tests, the diagnosis comes in: Alzheimer’s Disease. But surely she is too young to have this disease, Alice thinks. For awhile, she is able to hide her condition, but it isn’t long before she has to tell her family, and then her colleagues.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have Alzheimer’s, this novel gives you a pretty good idea. Some days Alice seems almost normal, other days she struggles to remember the basics. The author lets us see into the mind of Alice, showing the struggle to recognize people and understand what is going on around her. By the end of the book, you agonize with everyone in the story – John the husband who feels overwhelmed, the grown children who become more like protective parents to her, and Alice herself. But even with all the changes and limitations, Alice is still Alice inside.
Excerpt from pages 21-22:
She wanted to continue walking but stood frozen instead. She didn’t know where she was. She looked back across the street. The Brillo-haired woman pursued another sinner down the corridor. The corridor, the hotel, the stores, the illogically meandering streets. She knew she was in Harvard Square, but she didn’t know which way was home…
Her heart began to race. She started sweating. She told herself that an accelerated heart rate and perspiration were part of an orchestrated and appropriate response to running. But as she stood on the sidewalk, it felt like panic.
She willed herself to walk another block and then another, her rubbery legs feeling like they might give way with each bewildered step. The Coop, Cardullo’s, the magazines on the corner, the Cambridge visitors’ center across the street, and Harvard Yard beyond that. She told herself she could still read and recognize. None of it helped. It all lacked a context.
People, cars, buses, and all kinds of unbearable noise rushed and wove around and past her. She closed her eyes. She listened to her own blood whoosh and pulse behind her ears.
“Please stop this,” she whispered.
She opened her eyes. Just as suddenly as it had left her, the landscape snapped snugly back into place. The Coop, Cardullo’s, Nini’s Corner, Harvard Yard. She automatically understood that she should turn left at the corner and head west on Mass Ave. She began to breathe easier, no longer bizarrely lost within a mile of home…