Thursday, July 28, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

I was a HUGE fan of Still Alice (still am). When I saw that Lisa Genova had written a new novel Left Neglected I knew it would be good and I had to have it. I would still consider Still Alice my favorite of the two, but I loved this novel as well.

Sarah Nickerson doesn't have time to slow down. She works 60-80 hours a week, is married, and raises three kids. She isn't complaining. She loves her job and her family. Her lifelong ambition has put her right where she wants to be - great husband, great kids, promising career, house in the best neighborhood, house in the mountains. Life takes a major turn, however, when she is trying to juggle a work call while driving in the rain and is in a serious car accident. This accident leaves her with a brain injury that requires her to look at the world differently. Not because she wants to, but literally because she sees it in a new way - without the left side. She has a brain injury called Left Neglect and can no longer see or process anything to her left. In her fight to heal Sarah gets a fresh look at life and what's important. She finds herself healing more than her brain as she re-thinks her fast paced life and comes to terms with her relationship with her mother.

Left Neglected was engrossing, educational, emotional, and moving. In today's fast paced world most of us can relate to Sarah. We may or may not be working 60-80 hours a week, but job and family demands still keep us over-scheduled. I wish I could say I have never messed with my phone while driving, but that would be a lie. After reading this it has been much easier to make the decision to keep the phone tucked in my purse while driving. I keep myself listening to audio books and use driving as me time. Anyway, too many of us in search of "the good life" move fast and don' t slow down enough to enjoy life and our loved ones. And, unfortunately, most of us never even realize it. Left Neglected makes you reexamine the way we live our lives. It teaches us to appreciate the moments and to look at now instead of always reaching for tomorrow.

While reading I kept thinking that Sarah moved faced and dreamed big so she could forget about the pain of her past. Her brother drowned when she was a child and she and the rest of her family never really healed. This brings us to the relationship between Sarah and her mother, Helen, or rather the lack of one. Helen shut off after her son died and Sarah never really felt she had a mother. After the Sarah's car accident Helen rushes to be with her, but Sarah can't fathom why her nonexistent mother would suddenly want to be around let alone help. The novel does a great job of exploring depression and familial relationships after a loss. The story line drew me in and made me root for healing. Sarah's changed state puts her in a place to understand and know her mother in a way she never thought possible. They struggled to deal with the past and get through the intensive therapy Sarah must endure all while knowing each other for the first time in Sarah's adult life.

Lisa Genova is an amazing writer. She creates characters that are easy to relate to and pull at your heart. Her knowledge as a PhD of neuroscience really took this novel from good to phenomenal. I found the entire Left Neglect brain injury fascinating and scary. It is just crazy the things that can happen to your body in an accident. Sarah's struggles to function as a "normal" person were painful to read. At some points it felt a little monotonous, but I really think it was done this way to show that the process was on-going and it really was monotonous. It was written in a way that put you in the therapy with Sarah. She didn't just suddenly heal like a story in a book she worked hard for every step forward. She whined and she got mad and she was in denial just like you would really experience.

I actually listened to this novel as an audio book. It was narrated by Sarah Paulson. I thought Paulson did a wonderful job with her narration. She had a nice pace and portrayed the emotions well with her reading. I will admit that she has some type of lisp that made it hard to listen as first. As the story developed and I got drawn in I no longer noticed it. I would listen to another novel narrated by Ms. Paulson, but I would be crossing my fingers that it was as engaging as Left Neglected so I could forget the lisp.

I did receive a paper copy of this book from Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) in an exchange for my review. I received an email stating they were looking for reviews while I was actively listening to it, and I thought why not! I was enjoying the audio so much that I wanted a paper copy on my shelf next to Still Alice. Thanks Gallery Books!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Help - Movie

I consider myself so lucky tonight. I got a pass to an Advanced Screening of The Help. I brought along my Man for a date. It was so, so good. I typically find myself disappointed by movie renditions, but not tonight! It stayed so true to the book and made me want to read it over again. Now, I have to keep in mind that I read the book quite awhile back, but nothing stuck out as out of place or new to my memories of The Help.

I loved, loved, loved it! I think I cried 3 times, and laughed a few more. The Man really enjoyed it as well. In fact, I didn't hear anyone leaving make a negative comment.

Interesting fact - I found out that the screening company sent out emails to all the area churches to ask staff to attend (how many secretaries do you think passed that on to the big Pastor boss - none that I met LOL). I know that it has a spiritual side, but I don't remember being overwhelmed by it when I read the book or thinking it was a religious book. I guess if you are religious it just may not stand out to you. Anyway, I found it very interesting that they had marketed to churches (and then gave them preferential seating even though I was literally the first in line). Luckily I ran into staff from my church and they saved us some prime seats. Thanks Melissa!!

I can't recommend the movie enough. You must go see it if you enjoyed the book.

Official Movie Trailer

Book Description courtesty of The Penguin Group

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.