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!


  1. ever since i had a stroke in 1997 it left me with left weakness i was only able to read short stories nothing held my attention on august 18th untill the 26th i read the whole book left neglected on a plane from boston to dublin ireland and the whole stay in ireland i finished it before i went home on the 28th i couldn't leave on the 28th due to hurricane irene i know it was so i could finish the book and leave it for my daughter a physical therapist who was on the plane and i we began talking i told her of my stroke she said she just finished a book called Left Neglected it was great! i told her i had some neglect at first but every came back she said you need to read this and gave it to me could i tell you some stories about my journey down this road some funny some sad then when i read yoou were from Ma. it meant that much more i have not enjoyed a book more in about 14yrs i need to get 3or4 copyies of left neglected and purchase still alice thank-you for such a great book Maureen Webster Holden,Ma.