Lisa Genova's first novel, Still Alice, was terrific. I have been waiting to get my hands on her second, Left Neglected, for quite awhile now and was thrilled to find it on the library shelf. Genova has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard, so her novels, which deal at one level with complex neurological issues, feel so completely believable. But it isn't just the medicine that's good: Genova is a fantastic writer. She can get spot-on into the heart and soul of her characters.
Left Neglected centers on Sarah Nickerson, who is barely hanging on in her dual roles: as a high-powered business exec who thrives on her job and as a wife/mom with three little ones. Her dreams (done amazingly well!) reflect her inner turmoil and call out warning to her that she is about to crash, but she shoves them aside each morning. One morning, though, she really does crash. While talking on her cell phone on her way to work, she has an accident and ends up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The rest of the novel focuses on how Sarah and her family deal with the new Sarah. She suffers from a condition called Left Neglect, which causes the left side of her brain to ignore everything on the left—including her body. Sarah is Type A to the max, so she is determined to get over this condition. She has conquered everything in her life: why can't she conquer this? Ultimately, though, her victory comes in learning to readjust her priorities and reconsider what is really valuable in this life.
I loved everything about this novel. I found reading about Sarah and Bob's pre-accident life so painful yet so well done. It was like the life that Randy and I deliberately decided, early on in our parenthood, not to pursue. Still, I felt these moments if panic thinking: what if we had chosen that life? Yikes. And the sections after the accident were amazing, as Sarah realizes that she has tremendous worth outside of her expertise in her field.