Left Neglected – Lisa Genova /// Adult – Contemporary
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is different from many books I pick up (more sciencey) but it had a great story and was easy to navigate and read for people like me who use the word sciencey. It’s the second novel by Lisa Genova of Still Alice fame, so if you liked that you can be pretty assured that this is right up your alley.
The premise follows Sarah Nickerson, an overworking mother who lives and organizes her life based on statistics and spreadsheets. A few chapters into the story she is in a car accident where she is left (ha get it) with no awareness on the left side of her body. Full disclosure, I was halfway through the book before I fully realized what this entailed. Lisa Genova does a good job of explaining the science behind this, and I am not even going to attempt it.
The end result is now a working woman who can’t work and learning to function with her new handicap. Yes, it is a handicap, Genova does an excellent job of portraying the struggles this woman faces besides the general hard time walking. Simple things such as flossing, maneuvering within her own home, and eating at a restaurant become seemingly impossible struggles. Genova portrays these in an empathetic yet realistic manner and I was able to relate to character I had no reason to relate too. In the midst of realizing she had major brain surgery she looks at herself for the first time in the mirror and notices all of the changes to her body, specifically, the hairs on her chin. Without a major trauma I relate, and in that way this story felt realistic and less of a trauma story.
My biggest problem with this book, and one that distracted me when reading Still Alice, is Genova’s attempt at narrative. She is a trained neuroscientist with an amazing skill at dumbing down the terms and concepts and turning them into a narrative without being condescending. However, in both books she attempts to bring in struggles with external family members that have nothing to do with forwarding the plot or character development. In Left Neglected this woman is struggling with getting back to regular life, realizing she never can, and defining a “new normal” with her husband and children. Concentrating on those relationships and struggles would have made for an excellent character driven plot. Then, bam! There’s an estranged mother who she also has to reconnect with at the same time as all this life changing scenarios. It was awkward for me, almost as if Genova saw that formula of family drama in another book and added it last-minute. As if the marriage and parent relationships weren’t drama enough. Some people loved it this about the work, I was not one of them, to each their own.
“Bob keeps insisting that I can do anything I put my mind to. But he’s referring to my old mind. My new mind is broken and doesn’t give a whack about the left or my old mind’s reputation for success.”
“I know this looks pathetic, but I’m wearing black elastic-waist pants just like my mother’s, a hot-pink fleece hat, mismatched socks, and no makeup. I think it’s safe to say that vanity is no longer my biggest concern.”
I want to hear from you guys, do you think I’m being to hard on the estranged mother character or did you also find it took away from the story?