Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. However, after his visit with a neurologist, he is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate.
I received an advance review copy from publisher via NetGalley. A HUGE thank you to
NetGalley & the publisher for this opportunity to read and review one of my favorite authors!
Lisa Genova again gets into the heart of people suffering from an incurable disease. Told from the perspective of a father diagnosed with Huntingtons and his fourth child who is wrestling with if she should find out the results of her genetic screen, which would tell her if she has the disease or not, Genova explores different ways a terrifying disease impacts different pieces of a family. Genova explores new grounds by expanding her narrative and brings together a richer story than just from the perspective of the person diagnosed.
Not only is Huntington a neurodegenerative disease with no treatment that affects the progression of its symptoms and no cure, because the disease is autosomal dominant, children of affected people have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. Its called a "family disease." So not only does Genova's main character Joe have to live with knowing how this disease will destroy his ability to control his movements, limit his ability to speak, and make thinking difficult, the father also finds out if his children have the Huntington gene and will also develop the disease.
At first I found Joe's narrative to be a bit abrasive, so it took me a little while to relate to him. I related quicker and easier to Genova's characters in "Still Alice" and "Left Neglected."
This story explores all different facets of how the disease bleeds into a family. Its not just physical, its also mental, financial, spiritual, and impacts relationships. But there is so much more. There is hope. Joe learns that the future should not ruin his "today." He is the example to his family how to live with this disease. Joe also reaches back to his past and finds a touching connection with his mother.
The main message, and reward of this story, is that your reality depends on what you pay attention to, and its the living that merits the attention, not the dying. Life doesn't stop, it just keeps moving. Joe knows what the disease will look like on him in a few short years, but he's not going to leave his life behind for the vision of his future. He's going to live.
There is humor, honestly, and incredible heart. Genova created a beautifully descriptive and brilliant narrative about a horrible and terrifying disease. But its only a terrifying disease if you choose to be terrified. Hope and the strength of family can overcome any challenge. This book both broke and warmed my heart in the end, and to Lisa Genova, I say thank you for bringing awareness to this illness and finding the hope within it.
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse