July 06

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Unless you have been living under a literary and movie rock, I am sure you know ‘ Still Alice ‘ (Julianne Moore won an Oscar in 2015 for her portrayal of a woman suffering early on set Alzheimers disease, remember?).

Well, Inside the O’Briens is penned by the same author and instead of Alzheimers, this story is about the turmoil created by Huntingtons Disease – a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to profound mental and physical decline – and eventually death.

It’s no picnic.

This is the tale of Joe O’Brien, a Boston cop who suddenly starts to experience alarming physical and mental decline which he initially blames on stress. When the diagnosis of Huntington Disease comes, Joe and his entire family are thrown into despair especially when they discover Joe’s four adult children have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. Everyone retreats to their own way of coping – denial, anger, drink.

Told in two voices – Joe’s and his daughter Katie – the story probes human frailty and strength and shows the impact of the disease in full force. Like Alzheimers Disease in Still Alice, Huntingtons Disease itself becomes a character in its own right. The disease is the forceful demon the families get to know and try to fight until it is obvious they simply need to relent and welcome the demon into their lives, get to know it, live alongside it. The fury they feel along the way and the fear is really gut wrenching.

But like all good storytellers, the author delivers punch and also delivers some beautiful ponderings and at the end of the book, she offers this one which is perhaps my favourite …

‘Every breath is a risk. Love is why we breathe’

Inside the O’Briens teaches you the meaning of this, that is for sure.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.