Monday, December 5, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Gallery Books
ISBN: 978-1439164655
Published July 26, 2011
Trade Paperbacks, 352 pages

At the community centre where I work, there are day programs for seniors with Alzheimer's (I co-lead one of them) and there is a Wellness Centre where kinesiologists offer rehabilitating exercise programs for individuals who have suffered a stroke or have been diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Lisa Genova's books have helped me to understand the people I see every time I step into the building where I work. Her latest, Left Neglected, was so insightful and inspiring to me. Sarah, the main character, is a workaholic (80 hours/week) who juggles work and family and seems to do it all until one day, she sustains a brain injury in a car accident. The trauma and neurological damage to the right hemisphere of the brain leaves her with a total unawareness of everything on her left side, including her body.

This is when her whole world changes. But with change, even a negative and life-debilitating change such as the one the condition of Left Neglect imposes on her, the consequences aren't all bad, although my heart ached so much for Sarah and the limitations she now faced. Sarah re-establishes her relationship with her estranged mother and appreciates and is grateful all the more for what she does have and has not lost. Her world is no longer on a frenetic pace and her level of stress is lowered. Her view of the world and her priorities have changed.

When I first started reading the book, I wanted to shake Sarah for not seeing how crazy her life was. How could she possibly think that she could continue at that pace? Her job and having a wealthy lifestyle were so important to her, at the expense of her children and personal relationships—there was no mention of girlfriends. It was work, work, work.

This novel helped me to sit back and appreciate a few things:
  1. I am now more careful on the traffic-laden commute to and from work. Having kids makes me so aware of my own mortality.
  2. I never use my phone while driving. (It's actually against the law here in Quebec.)
  3. Saying no to some work opportunities so I could spend more quality time with my kids is so worth it.
  4. I am trying not to take on more than what I can handle. (This is a hard one!)
  5. I am so happy to work only part-time.
I can't stress enough how important this novel is for women who live their lives running at a break-neck speed to “get it all done.” But more importantly, it gives us insight on living with a sudden life change such as stroke or brain trauma. It helps us to be more understanding and compassionate rather than pitying of others, whether they suffer from a physical, emotional or mental disability. This is a well-written fiction novel with an important message. It is an excellent choice for book clubs, and should be required reading for anyone who lives with or works with someone that has a physical impairment. Highly recommended.

Note: Rated C = a clean read.  

Reviewed by Laura

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. I think there are many people - men and women - just like Sarah and that's really sad. It sounds like this is a powerful book.

  2. This book has such an important message and we could all learn something by reading it. Every time I see someone on their cell phone while driving, I wish I could toss them the book and tell them to read it. It only takes a split second for lives to be changed forever!

  3. Yes, Kathy. I think this is a powerful book.
    Beth, you are so right! When I see drivers distracted with their cell phones especially while driving during the busy after school hours it really upsets me.

  4. This sounds like a book I should read. Life is always crazy around here and I don't even work full time!

    I agree with the comments about cell phones and especially texting. On our trip back to Michigan to visit family over Christmas, we passed numerous vehicles on the freeway swerving all over the road while they texted.

  5. I enjoyed Still Alice so I'm sure I would like this one too. She has tremendous insight into the human brain doesn't she. We just put my grandpa in a small home for people with Alzheimers. It's very stressful for the family. God bless you for the work you do! It truly takes a special person to work with people like my Papa.


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