Thursday, January 13, 2011

Left Neglected – Lisa Genova

2011, 336 pages.
Sarah is living a hectic life. She is a vice president of a big company, working around the clock, and a mother of three young children. She and her husband, who also works many hours a week and is never really away from his job, are trying to keep up with mortgages and loans, the price of studying at top universities, living at top neighborhood and owning a vacation home. All for the kids, of course. The kids who see their parents only early in the morning, before the unlucky one of them, whose turn it is to give up the pleasure of driving straight to work, takes them to day care and before-school care, and for a short time before they go to sleep, after eating dinner with the nanny who picks them up from school and day care.
Sarah always has to do more than one thing at a time to keep up with all the responsibility she is given. Eating while talking on the phone with one person and emailing another. But while multitasking sitting at her desk is hard, doing it while driving is also dangerous, as she finds out one day, waking up at a hospital with a brain injury.
She suffers from a syndrome called “Left Neglect”. Her brain ignores the left side of everything, including her own body. The book follows her while finding out the full extent and limitation of her situation, the treatment, and the way she and her family cope with the situation. Her new situation brings her mother back to her life, after many years of problematic relationship following a childhood trauma.
I had very high expectations from this book after enjoying so much her first book, “Still Alice”. Unfortunately I didn’t feel she managed to repeat her big achievement.
The first part of the book describes Sarah’s life before the accident. It is hectic and high-paced, and it didn’t feel original, I felt I read so many descriptions of busy mothers trying to balance career and parenting, like “I don’t know how she does it”. I was also so annoyed by Sarah’s choices and behavior I could not enjoy the reading. I just could not sympathize her using her cell phone while driving or leaving the baby in the car with the engine on while bringing the other kids to school. I never considered doing it even for a minute when I was in similar situation so I just couldn’t relate to her doing so.
After the accident, I think Genova did a good job describing how this rare and strange syndrome feel for the patient, but it was also a little tedious. It could be an interesting chapter in a book about interesting brain syndrome, telling a story of a real patient, but as a fictional story it just wasn’t enough.
The last part of the book, Sarah’s coping with reality after releasing from the hospital, did manage to grab my interest. I was even touched at times by the situations and decisions she had to do. But the plot didn’t seem realistic to me. Things worked out , when they did, too smoothly to feel real. The end, though touching, was predictable, and I guessed it long before, and I felt it lost the power it should have had.
All in all, I don’t think it is a bad book, it was quite interesting in spite of its flaws. But if you are expecting another “Still Alice”, you should re-adjust your expectation to prevent from disappointment.

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