Inside the Obriens

Inside the Obriens

by Lisa Genova

Overview:From New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a “heartbreaking…very human novel” (Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves) that does for Huntington’s disease what her debut novel Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s. Joe O’Brien is a forty-three-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and 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, and each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Judy Stanton (11/06/17): I've read several of Lisa Genova's books....Still Alice is the most memorable...but I've also read Still Anthony and Left Neglected. Her writing uses her expertise as a neuroscientist to educate readers about a particular illness; Inside the O'Briens focused on Huntington's Disease. The story centers on a policeman and his family, and is especially poignant since the disease is inherited and he has four adult children. The book focuses on Katie, but all four are grappling with whether or not to take the test, what to do with the information once they know if they have the gene, and the impact it has on their lives, relationships, family and career. Perhaps I'm jaded from having read her previous works, but this one just didn't have the same impact on me as the others. While I can only imagine what a difficult and horrifying process this family faced, the story just didn't move forward fast enough for me. Perhaps the author wanted the reader to feel the weight of the decisions and the slow development of the disease. I do hope that it will be helpful in raising money to find a cure; like her other novels, it does serve to expose the public to illnesses of which they might not otherwise be aware.
Rating: ***

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