Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: "Left Neglected" by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson and her husband, Bob, have a successful if utterly chaotic life. Sarah is the VP of human resources for an international HR consulting firm and Bob works for a struggling technology startup, they have a beautiful house in an affluent Boston suburb, and they rarely have any time that doesn't involve their jobs or their children. While the pressure is staggering, especially after their oldest child, Charlie, is presumed to have ADHD, Sarah knows this is the life she wants to lead. And one day, while looking at an email on her phone, Sarah gets into a car accident and sustains a traumatic brain injury which manifests itself as Left Neglect, in which Sarah's entire left side—of her body and her vision—has vanished from her.

A significant portion of Left Neglected follows Sarah from when she wakes up from her accident through recovery and rehabilitation, as well as the adjustments she and her family need to make. This is a tremendously well-written, heartfelt, compelling book; while you may not be able to identify with Sarah, either pre- or post-accident, the book certainly brought to light for me many "what if" questions. Genova has a PhD in neuroscience and while you may never have heard of Left Neglect, she does a great job of explaining it in layman's terms.

What gripped me about this book, however, is Genova's ability to give voice to what Sarah is thinking as she struggles with recognition that she—and her life—are different following her accident. The battle between type-A Sarah and recovery Sarah is emotional and very interesting, and the people around her behave much as many people do in situations like this. I really enjoyed this book, and found it a little less depressing (although no less good) than Genova's wonderful first book, Still Alice, which dealt with early-onset Alzheimer's. This is a great story and while it's not a light read, it's well worth your time.

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