Friday, December 18, 2015

Left Neglected, Lisa Genova

**I updated this review since I forgot to write about one thing I think is really important. It's marked with another *

This is the author who brought us "Still Alice" and is every bit as a good read. I realize that she uses modern writing techniques-like fragmented sentences so that we read more the way people talk. It's not the stuff of classics or great English papers, but it does make for very enjoyable and relateable reading.

I laughed a LOT while reading this, which I didn't expect, being a serious subject of a person with a traumatic brain injury leading to long term brain damage. However, Sarah, the main character has 3 children and parenting those children in the book is OH SO REAL! And that cracked me up on a regular basis.

So Sarah, who is on the fast track as a VP of HR at a consulting firm, working 60-70 hours a week or more, always on the go, the queen of multitasking, meets her unfortunate accident because she is distracted with-you guessed it-her phone in the car. I am SO glad this was the reason because this is a HUGE problem in society. People feeling that they're "not doing anything" while they're driving on their commute so they can now take this "Down time" in order to make calls, answer texts or emails, etc. When you're driving, you're DRIVING and it takes concentration and attention-without distractions-to do this in the safest manner possible. Luckily, the author chose for Sarah to only hurt herself in this accident. It would be horrible if she were to have been responsible for putting someone else in the hospital or morgue.

The one thing I didn't quite understand were the italicized flash backs or coma induced scenes. It always seemed hazy to know if she was just remembering things from the past or if these were things that happened dream-like during her medically induced coma. Parts of them told really vital parts to her background story, but others seemed really fragmented and weird and it never became super clear what purpose they served.

Anyhow, when Sarah finally wakes up in the hospital, it becomes apparent that her right side of the brain was injured the worst and is no longer aware that she has a left side or that ANYTHING has a left side. It's called "Left neglect" and is apparently more common than the average person is aware of. She's forced to slow down, to relearn things, to rely on others for help, to let her mom back into her life. You journey with her as she slowly rehabilitates and plateaus, expresses frustration at the health insurance industry and their arbitrary dates and deadlines of when someone is "finished" or how many sessions a person will "need" to rehabilitate. That's a whole other relateable issue that is touched on in this book. In the middle of this, she also is still a mother with mother things to do and worry about. Like her oldest son, Charlie, being diagnosed with ADHD and finding that some of his coping strategies and hers can be the same. My favorite part was when she talked to the association for handicapped sports and the ski hill and was able to do some snow sports again in spite of the disability that still made it hard for her to walk.

It's a great story for evalutating what you really need and want out of life. And it's also made me incredibly appreciative of being able to do little things, like walking, getting myself dressed, typing this blog post, reading a book, being able to control my own body! There are so many aspects of life we all take for granted, that we never stop to think what it would be like to NOT see the left side of things. So this book is definitely about perspective as well as everything else.

**One thing that I think is incredibly important is that Sarah's husband stays with her. Just as Alice's husband sticks with her in "Still Alice". I think it's important to have stories like this where the person affected is not abandoned and that the wedding vows "in sickness and in health" are taking quite literally and not lightly. There's no sugar coating how hard this is-Sarah's husband goes through his own phase of denial that there is a chance his wife may never fully recover, but he handle's it with a good deal of grace, in my opinion. I think that's another reason I have liked Genova's books, is that she shows it's possible. Both Alice and Sarah feel undeserving of their husband's vow keeping; as if they felt that both partners signed up for a marriage in which things were more equally divided, and being cared for is NOT being an equal partner. However, they both know they would be their husband's caregiver in a heart beat were the situations reversed. Thoughts of their husbands having an affair (and not blaming them for it) cross their minds. I think it's part of being a woman. Not feeling like we deserve the kindness and loyalty we so freely give. Perhaps it's a pride thing, we are the caretaker, not the other way around, and it's extremely humbling to have to admit you can't do something or that you need help. And another thing to then ACCEPT the help wherever it's given.

Depression is lightly touched on, as is forgiveness and how sometimes it doesn't come easy, but when you let yourself be open to it happening at all, it will come and when it does, it's a release for everyone involved.

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