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A curated collection of books and other resources can be found at both branches of Mississippi Mills Public Library. Some of our members are going to be reading and reviewing these books, and we will publish those reviews the first Wednesday of each month.

Our reviewer this month is Board Member Ruth Dubois

Ruth’s background in palliative care stems from over 42 years of work as an RN and nurse educator in a variety of areas including geriatrics, surgery, medicine, mental health, and community home care.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova (2019)

This novel depicts the struggle of a concert pianist who develops Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, (ALS), also referred to by the lay public as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in his midlife. Divorced and living the nomadic life of frequent global and national tours, the protagonist copes by denying the relentless ramifications of his disease despite the deleterious effects it is having on his professional and personal life. Divorced, and estranged from his only daughter, Richard continues to live independently, that is, until he can no longer care for himself in his walk-up apartment. While Richard is physically paralyzed, his ex-wife, Karen, has long been immobilized by her fear and excuses to find fulfillment in her own musical career, and instead, remains trapped in the dissatisfaction she experiences while teaching piano. A twist of fate throws them together when Richard needs a caregiver, and Karen reluctantly takes him back into her life.

Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist, well positioned to describe the trajectory of this devastating disease. She has authored several other books about nervous system disorders and the impacts they have on the victim, the family, and other relationships. Her description of Richard and Karen’s struggles as Richard’s ALS progresses to its finality is graphic, vivid, and illustrative of the realities of this disease and its usual trajectory. While the subject matter may appeal to an audience of people who have been diagnosed with, or care for someone with ALS, the story may illuminate aspects of the struggle prematurely, perhaps overwhelming someone who suffers the reality of ALS in their own life. With that caution, I would, however, recommend this book for its comprehensive exemplification of the symptoms, the resources needed, and possible sources of help as the disease progresses. Genova’s writing style reflects her deep knowledge and understanding of the neural disorders she portrays, and I found the book hard to put down until its finish.