Sunday, October 2, 2011

Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova

The brain is mysterious, endlessly fascinating. Oliver Sacks enthralled us with "Awakening" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." Lisa Genova first entered the neuroscientist-as-author arena in 2009 with "Still Alice," the story of a woman who succumbs to early onset Alzheimer's disease. With "Left Neglected," Genova tells the story of Sarah Nickerson, a high powered VP, wife of Bob, and mother of three young children.

As she did in "Still Alice," Genova picked a great story to tell. The neurological disorder, in this case Left Neglect, serves as the novel's foundation. Around this foundation Genova crafted a narrative that's compelling and relatable. Sarah's conflicts -- efforts to balance children and career, worries about keeping up with the Joneses -- although ratcheted up from the level many of us experience, are universal. So when Sarah looks away for a moment, crashes her car and ends up in the hospital with a brain injury, we're right there with her. She's forced out of the hamster wheel of every day life -- she couldn't move quickly if she tried. Her superwoman cape gone, Sarah has no choice but to accept help --from her mother, no less.

The lessons Sarah learns in her new life, which has been transformed and is ostensibly less-than, are ones we could all benefit from: Slow down. Appreciate small gifts. Live in the present. "Left Neglected" paints a picture of acceptance and gratitude. My wish for the New Year is that --without any tragedy involved -- we'll all hear these lessons.

Shana Tova, U'Metukah!

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