A Slice of Brie Book Club: Inside the O’Briens.

I’m extremely excited to be linking up with Brie (A Slice of Brie) for her online book club, A Slice of Brie Book Club. I have had the privilege of becoming friends with Brie in real life, though we met through our blogs, and she is the cutest. She reads a ton of books and I am pretty jealous of the beautiful colour-coordinated book shelf in her house. Every month I’ll be reviewing one book for her book club, this month it was Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova.

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If the name Lisa Genova sounds familiar it could be because of “Still Alice,” another one of her best sellers that was made into a major motion picture last year. I read Still Alice, about a woman who has early onset Alzheimers, at the time that my grandma was slowly losing her battle with Alzheimers, so to say it was a tear jerker was an understatement, but it was also a very real and well-written book. I have had “Inside the O’Briens” on my “to-read” list for a while after reading Still Alice. I’m so glad Brie picked this one!

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At first I’m not going to lie I was a little underwhelmed with the book. As I said, I had already read Still Alice and when I started reading Inside the O’Briens it felt like a simple repeat of the same book, with a different neurological disease. A middle-aged parent, who has genetically inherited a disease, with no cure, and only the slight hope that symptoms will be kept at bay. One child is looking to start a family, the others find their own ways to deal with this blow to the family… it was like a book on repeat and I was’t stoked.

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Once I got into it, and admittedly a little emotionally invested in it, it was still a good read. Hell, the story is about a middle-aged police officer, tough as nails, who has a family including daughters that he loves and becomes consumed by Huntington’s Disease (HD). As a young woman with a middle-aged police officer dad, I was definitely invested in the story. If you want to know how many times I cried reading the book… it was five.

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Of course, the ending made me mad because I really wanted to know if the younger daughter tested positive for HD, but I get it. It ended on a positive note, even if it wasn’t really a sunny and positive book. The whole concept of HD, and Joe’s children knowing they each had a 50% chance of getting HD, was terrifying. I put myself in their shoes and couldn’t even imagine making a decision whether to find out if I had it or not. Would you want to know that in one or two decades you would begin to see symptoms of your inevitable early death? Would you want to go on living without knowing but always thinking in the back of your head that you might at any time develop symptoms? Would you start a family? Would you tell people? AH!

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The one thing I really appreciate about this book, and particularly about this author, is that she is actually a neurologist. She has patients with both HD and Alzheimers and she has perfectly portrayed what life is like in families with these diseases. Yes, we can read about the symptoms and attempt to comprehend how that would feel, but to know what it does to families, friendships, work, life, relationships, everything… Genova did an incredible job conveying how destructive these diseases are, and not just for the individual that has them. I like knowing that the author is truly well versed in the subject matter, especially for such a serious and dark subject. On the positive side, Genova also created the emotional draw, the loving relationship of Katie and Felix and Joe and Rosie, and included the simple joys in life that help balance the dark nature of HD.

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If you have read “Still Alice” before, this story is obviously similarly written with a parallel storyline. It is still a wonderful book, but probably even more so if you are new to Genova’s work. I cried, I laughed, I smiled… it was good. I can’t wait to find out what we’re reading next month!

Head over to Brie’s link-up to check out more reviews of Inside the O’Briens. 

10 Comments

  1. She also has a book called “left neglected” about a young woman, I believe car crash, causes her to not recognize that she has a left side to her body after an accident. It is a good read. She has small kids to deal with too. She tries to manage it as best she can. Try it.

  2. Great review! Thanks for participating!

    I think I cried 3 times. And I’m not usually a big crier when it comes to book (sad movies on the other hand…). When the pieces started falling into place that Joe’s mom had had HD, oh my heart. I do think I would want to know if I had the gene, but I think either decision would be tough to live with….I just can’t stop thinking of all the different levels of guilt this poor family had to deal with. Guilt if you’re positive, guilt if your negative, guilt if you move away, etc.

    1. Right?! I kept thinking back to when Joe was flipping the quarters and he didn’t flip Katie’s not wanting to know that all 4 of his kids had it, so I kind of knew when I got to the end that we wouldn’t know if Katie had it because the foreshadowing said we wouldn’t flip that coin!

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