Friday, April 10, 2015

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

From the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice Lisa Genova comes a powerful and transcendent new novel about a family struggling with the impact of Huntington’s disease.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-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. 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. 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. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

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” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core. 

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Gallery Books 
arc - netgalley
I remember years ago hearing about a book that was self published (no one wanted to take a chance on it), but it ended up winning a number of awards - that book was Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I think it was one of the first books I read in less then 24 hours. Such an emotional story that I hestiated reading her next 2 books - could my heart handle the emotion she invoked?

When Inside the O'Brien was available on Netgalley I figured I was able to handle another dose of her emotional writing (bear in mind that I mean all this in a very good way).  In the end I opted for the audio version (via Audible).  The audio was phenomenal and I am so glad that I went that route, the reader evoked a pace and tone that brought this story to life.

The story begins by spending some time introducing the reader to the O'Briens, getting to know this family, what makes them tick, their beliefs and Irish heritage with subtle hints that all is not right with the patriarch Joe.

Having never heard of Huntington's Disease before I found this an education lesson but not in a clinical manner.  Told mostly through the POV of Joe and his youngest daughter Katie the author managed to make this reader feel empathy for the whole family.  With various reactions to being tested you can see each side and their reasonings.  

As I got closer to the end of this book I wondered how the author could pull it off without disrupting the flow of the story, I was not disappointed it was a fitting end.  Written with authentic and believable reactions this emotional book is a reminder that we aren't guaranteed tomorrow, love today, enjoy life because you never know what the future holds.