From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate.
(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)
And, like a lightning strike, there is his example. His mother before him. The lesson that she passed down for him to pass on to his children–the courage to face every breath with love and gratitude.
~ Lisa Genova, Inside the O’Briens
Lisa Genova has an incredible gift. Combining her writing talents and her scientific knowledge, Genova writes eloquent stories of ordinary people going about their day-to-day living. Characters so real we feel as if they are family or perhaps close friends.
Then one day the unthinkable happens–a diagnosis for a parent, husband, or wife that is life-changing. Genova brought this story line to us in Still Alice (see my review here), and once again we experience it in Inside the O’Briens.
The crux in each story is the impact it has the entire family. Joe O’Brien is a typical family man working long, hard hours as a police officer to support a home for his family–a wife, two grown sons (one married), and two grown daughters. He’s Irish Catholic and lives and works in Charlestown, MA.
Once Joe is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, an untreatable and incurable disease, he and his wife, Rosie, learn their children have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. Imagine the anger, frustration, despair you might feel given these odds. This news impacts every member of the O’Brien family. Each one’s life is now transformed by this disease.
And here is where Genova shines. I believe her intent in telling these stories is to tell as many people as she can reach about these incurable, genetically transferred diseases in lay terms, and not through stuffy, medical terminology no one completely understands. Genova’s ability to do this is marked by her character development, the pure story arc she creates, realistic dialogue, and setting.
Is there any more I can say about this book? Well, yes, I could go on and on but I hope you see not only the gift of storytelling but the gift of education in Lisa Genova’s books.
I consider this book among the top books I’ve read in 2015. After reading Still Alice, I went in search of more of Lisa Genova’s books and stumbled upon the O’Briens’ story. I encourage you to read something of Lisa Genova’s if only to decide whether you want to read more. I can almost guarantee you others of her books will find their way into your hands.
Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
Published: April 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Fiction / Family Life / Adult Fiction
Edition: Kindle edition, 353 pages