Saturday, January 07, 2012

Book 74: Left Neglected

First off, I loved Genova's other novel Still Alice, a portrayal of college professor living with Alzheimer's.  As a result, I was glad that to see that she had written another novel, Left Neglected.  This novel follows Sarah Nickerson, a successful career woman, wife and mother of three.  She and her husband both have very demanding jobs that they enjoy which they attempt to balance with their family lives.  After being involved in a car accident, Sarah wakes up in the hospital with a syndrome referred to as left neglect.  Her brain simply does not register anything in her left field of vision, to include her own body parts.  Since she isn't even aware of these body parts, she has to reteach herself to use them.  This is just one of the issues that Sarah faces now that she must live with left neglect.
While she is at first in denial, she learns some methods to slowly adjust to her new impairment through physical therapy.  Due to Sarah's accident, her estranged mother comes to Boston to help her and her family during Sarah's extended hospital stay.  Eventually, Sarah attempts to return to her job but realizes that this will not be compatible with her new life.  She also spends more time wih her children, and realizes that her son who has had issues in school similarly has a disorder that means normal methods of learning don't work for him, and with her new perspective, she is able to help and understand him much more.
While I actually quite liked Genova's description of how the syndrome works and how it would affect someone's life (and their family), there were other parts of the novel I didn't like quite as much.  Since Sarah eventually decides against returning to her old position, this affects the family's financial situation.  This part of the novel kind of left a bad taste in my mouth because Sarah goes through this whole journey and realizes how she and her husband may have been overly concerned with their material well-being.  While I think these types of circumstances probably help people realize what is important in life, I'm not sure if I felt Sarah was in any position to tell me about priorities - she and her husband owned an expensive home in Boston, two expensive cars and a vacation home in Vermont.  No offense, but I don't think it should have taken an accident to realize that all of these things aren't necessary in life - if you feel overworked and hate your job, then reconsider the need to own two homes.  If you generally want those things, and enjoy your job as Sarah states she did, then more power to you.  I guess the part I disliked is having a woman who owns designer shoes and all these other things start talking about enjoying the simpler things in life, especially since the same job that afforded her all these materialistic items also provided her with health insurance.  Basically, I like the novel a lot when it focused on the day to day adjustments and relationships, but could have done without the little message Genova seemed to add.  It's basically like complaints I read about the last Sex and the City movie - it's hard to relate to characters whose main problem is whether or not they can make a first class flight.  Sarah as a woman with a stressful job and family commitments is relatable - it's when the novel gets into the details of how much her job provides her with that she goes from being relatable to having "rich white people" problems. 
That is a small part of the novel, and while it made me enjoy this less than Still Alice, it's still a very good novel about the mysteries of the brain, and Sarah is generally a likable character. 

No comments: