Still Alice – Discussion Questions
Still Alice is one of my favorite book club reads ever. I have a personal tie to Alzheimer’s, which slowly dissolved away my paternal grandmother, Isabelle. In an atypical disease such as this, many moments are true—even if the experience wasn’t exactly the same as rendered in the book. Telling the truth in a novel is exceeding difficult.
I was deeply touched by the care and research put into this book by Genova. As a neuroscientist, novelist, and activists, the book is equal parts fiction and education.
Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard University.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…
From Simon Schuster
Lisa Genova’s publishing company, Simon Schuster, has a full Reading Group’s Guide here.
To add more personal questions to the conversation, consider the following discussion questions related to Still Alice.
- Do you know anyone who has suffered from Alzheimer’s? How did it affect their loved ones and you? How did it affect them?
- What are the stages of grief family members and the patient must travel through when facing Alzheimer’s? (Five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.) What stage did each family member reach? What about Alice? Can you get stuck in a phase, or repeat a phase?
- To what extent are we made of our memories?
- What are some of your fondest memories? Do you have a memory you would like to completely erase from your memory? Do you think your personality/self would change if a bad memory was removed?
- It is rare that an Alzheimer’s patient doesn’t consider suicide. Were you relieved she was thwarted or gladdened that Alice survived?
- Do you empathize with the idea of controlling your own death, when faced with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s? What about other diseases? What makes the difference for you? Where do you draw the line?
- If you have children, your children often feel they have a different parent from their siblings. If you have children, due to different circumstances, how are you a different mother to each of your children?
- Oldest memories are the last to go for those with dementia, along with scent. What scents bring back memories for you? What is your earliest memory?
- John carries on without Alice, making decisions without her. Does this bother you or do you empathize?
- How would this story have changed if told from another perspective beside Alice’s?
Happy reading and discussing.