Top positive review
Another good neuroscience book from Lisa Genova
20 April 2019
After tackling early onset dementia in Still Alice, neuroscientist Lisa Genova turns her attention to Huntington’s Disease in this one. The O’Briens are an Irish Catholic family in Boston. Father Joe is a cop, married to the indomitable Rosie. They have four adult children. When Joe is diagnosed with HD the family is thrown into turmoil. Not only is it a bitter blow for Joe and Rosie. Their children, faced with the fact that they all have a 50/50 chance of being gene positive themselves, have to decide whether to get tested. Do they want to know, and how will it affect their lives? If they are positive, they will definitely get HD and will die - nastily. As usual, Genova does a masterful job of examining the human consequences of such a diagnosis. She also notes the social and economic consequences. Joe will have to retire early on a part pension. To safeguard Rosie economically it makes sense for Rosie and Joe to divorce, something that sits particularly badly with devoted Catholics. Genova is a marvellous researcher: her people are as real and vivid as the science. She focuses in particular on youngest child Katie, who is a yoga instructor. The life affirming practices of yoga are beautifully presented and form a serene counterpoint to a bitterly tragic story even as Katie vacillates about getting tested. Daughter Meghan is a ballerina who is more sanguine than Katie. Son Patrick is more irresponsible in his approach to life. Son JJ is a firefighter and married. He and wife Colleen are trying for a baby but what will it mean for them if JJ is positive? Rosie’s faith in a benevolent God is severely tested. An excellent portrait of good people living with a harsh sentence with as much grace and dignity as they can manage.