Sarah is a juggler, like many working Moms and stay-at-home Moms and women, in general, she has so many balls in the air at any given time that one of them must fall eventually. And it does, when one day on her commute to work, she roots around in her purse for her cell phone and crashes the car. Sarah, a bright and savvy business woman, a wife and mother to three children, is suddenly left with brain damage, a condition called Left Neglect. Basically the portion of her brain that sees the left and controls the left side of her body cannot anymore. She can't make her left side work at all. Her left hand is impossible to control and her left leg slowly comes along with therapy and hard work. Left Neglected is the story of how she gets her life and health back and the lessons she learns on the way back to her former life. The title is also a clever twist on what she might have neglected before the accident forced her to slow down and reexamine her world. Lisa Genova is a unique storyteller. Sure there are many doctors that have come before her and spun beautiful stories, poems and literature. In fact doctors as writers could be an entire course taught in university English departments. Genova burst onto the scene a couple of short years ago with the blockbuster bestseller Still Alice, the story of a woman slowly being overcome by Alzheimer's Disease. It was a stunning glimpse into the workings of the brain and the effects of that disease on the various relationships within a family. This is the thing I adore about Genova. She gives us great stories and brilliant insights into how the mind works. Sarah is a great character, very real and humane. There is a scene at the beginning of the novel where she describes her work day and the breakneck speed with which things happen. And then she simply observes when it gets away from her she closes her office door and permits herself a 10 minute cry before resuming her job. Shortly after her accident, her eldest son Charlie, rambunctious and impulsive is also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and he also has to learn how to make his brain work differently. It is an interesting parallel that provides smart lessons on how people with different brains change things to make them work. In some respects Sarah is living an American dream before it all comes crashing down around her and her dream changes. I enjoyed this fiction story in a different way from Still Alice. Both books offer some truly insightful pictures of how the brain works, but Left Neglected is a more universal story of the human condition. My only mild criticism is that the writing is secondary to the plot. The characters are strong and the subplot with Sarah's mother is a nice touch, but I never felt as if the writing leapt off the page and sang. This is a book I couldn't put down and also a story we are discussing at the National Book Club on EverythingMom.com http://www.everythingmom.com/ Buy the book, read along for the month of March and come join us!
Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova, Simon and Schuster, 2011, $25 US, $28.99 Canadian, 327 pages.
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I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in order to review. My opinions on this blog are my own.