I just finished reading Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I was a very big fan of Still Alice, and when I won this book in a Twitter contest from Chapters, I was very excited. Free anything is awesome. Free books? Well, that's bloody amazing! 🙂
I loved this book. Lisa Genova has a PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard. She's no dummy. Though she writes fiction, the topics are ones that she knows a lot about. Still Alice was about a woman who suffered from severe early onset Alzheimer's. Left Neglected is about Sarah Nickerson, a woman who suffers from a true neurological disorder called Left Neglect. But more on that in a bit.
Sarah is a thirty-something woman with a lot going on in her life. She is married to Bob, the mother of Charlie, Lucy and Linus (yes, her children are named after Peanuts characters) and works as the vice president of Human Resources in a huge company. She works in the neighbourhood of 80 hours a week, juggles work, family, social, etc. with amazing order and precision. Her husband Bob is also a very motivated individual, devoting many hours at work. Their lives are very hectic and in many ways they are the perfect match for each other.
There is tons of stuff going on, including parent-teacher interviews with their sons teacher about his behaviour, meetings at work, trying to make it to one soccer game out of the season, who is going to win the “rocks-paper-scissors” game that they play each Friday to see who is going to drive the kids to school and daycare.
One morning, on her way to work, trying to make a phone call, she takes her eyes off the road for a split second, resulting in a life changing car accident. When she wakes up in the hospital, it becomes apparent very quickly that there is something extra unusual going on. She has had severe trauma to her brain, and required surgery. It is discovered that she is suffering from Hemispatial Neglect on the right side of her brain, which causes her to completely lose the left side of everything, even herself. Her brain is unable to register the left side of absolutely everything.
Of course this drives her crazy, and she automatically assumes that she will be healing up and back to work in two weeks, with therapy and whatnot. She can't stand that she's away from work, away from her kids, away from her life. Sarah soon realizes that the simplest tasks – dressing, eating and going to the washroom become nearly impossible without help. Healing is not going to be a cake-walk, and that she may never completely heal, and never get her life back as she knew it.
Combine all this with the sudden apperance of her mostly absent mother, who has all of a sudden shown up with the intent to help her through her recovery, and Sarah is embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Though where she ends up is definitely nowhere near where she thought she would.
One of the main reasons I liked this book was that it concentrated on Sarah. It was from her point of view, just as Still Alice was from Alice's point of view. There are so many accounts from the family members of people with neurological disorders, but not nearly as many from the actual patients. It is different, and it is very interesting and breathes life into these conditions. Makes them more real.
I liked that in Left Neglected, the focus was Sarah, and her condition. Her husband was awesome, and for the most part stayed awesome. It wasn't like her whole life fell apart when this happened to her, but it was almost a blessing in disguise, for so many reasons.
I totally recommend this book, and her other book Still Alice. Both are extremely well written, compassionate and real.