This novel by Lisa Genova focuses on ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and captures the sequence of events that the body goes through as it’s life is taken away, beginning with paralysis and progressing to death. The experience that the disease presents in loss of muscle control and degeneration is so clearly presented that it alone may leave the reader in tears, but Genova brings Richard Evans the person clearly into focus.
Richard is a famous concert classical pianist, known for his technique, and he loses any use of his hands early in the story. Every finger of his hands was like a finely calibrated instrument and the music he played was exact and flawless.
His x-wife who is also an accomplished pianist can clearly relate to what those loses mean, but their marriage ended years ago and she and her daughter, Grace, have only had a distant relationship with Richard for years. Their relationships have ample issues and fault on all sides that must be dealt with as Richards life comes apart.
The emotional strain on Richard, his wife and daughter, are met head on in dealing with this disease, and in some ways their life's issues seem to be the more important message of the book. The step by step debilitation of Richards body, and the treatments and life sustaining equipment challenges, seem to fold into situations that force him to deal with his failed marriage, estranged daughter and his unresolved feeling towards his father.
The thought of Richard having to be left with nothing but these unresolved issues, and only the blink of an eye to communicate, and hope to resolve them, is an additional level of terror that this disease offers. Somehow, they do find some resolution.
It might be possible that ALS was the only way he really had to resolve his bigger life issues but then that seems something beyond fair.
This may be Lisa Genova's best book yet.
“What’s the saying? Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
“Everything begins and ends. Every day and night, every concerto, every relationship, every life. Everything ends eventually.”
“Love isn’t measured by the number of hours a person logs.”