Review Blog

Mar 09 2012

Left neglected by Lisa Genova

cover image

Simon and Schuster, 2012.
(Age: Adult) Recommended. Compellingly told, this story, as we read in the prologue, is about a 'traumatic smack to the head'. After a brief prologue, we are plunged into the frenetic life of Sarah Nickerson, a super-high-achiever, a woman who appears to have everything in place: important, well-paid job; large family house; good, loving (equally high-achieving) husband; and three much loved children. With one mishap, albeit one that springs from something simple, but which we all know is absolutely risky, her world collapses.
Interestingly, Lisa Genova does not present Sarah as initially appealing, and it is impossible not to feel exhausted as she unfolds her story of fully-timetabled days, where she dashes from one important task to another. We feel somewhat unnerved by her apparent, if somewhat cliched, racing headlong to disaster. Yet her incisively detailed story, told in the present tense, in spare prose, is so seductive that it is almost impossible to put the book down. It would be hard to not be captivated by her narrative of deep personal struggle, trying to come to terms with her puzzling condition, of her early resistance and refusal to adapt, and by her grudging acceptance that she has to live every day in an entirely new way, mentally and physically.
Forced to come to terms with her 'left neglected' mind, Sarah has to let go of her old life as she can be no longer the performer, whose children were expected to fit into her rigid timetable, who timetabled her demanding work schedule into her day, and her relationship with her husband into clearly defined blocks, for talking, eating, relaxing and loving. Acceptance does not happen without the help of others, and we are led through a beguiling story of the arrival back into her life of her mother, of hospital staff who challenge her to respond positively to her new world, of her understanding of the real needs of her children and husband. As Genova subtly alters her protagonist's view of life and disability, she constructs a new, gentler woman, who not only finds her soul, but who also finds a way to choose to live differently.
An adult book and it is outstanding.
Elizabeth Bondar

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