Title: Left Neglected
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: January 4, 2011
I haven't read Lisa Genova's debut, Still Alice, yet so I can't compare, but Left Neglected really lived up to the hype of this author in general. While Still Alice explores Alzheimer's, this one explored another neurological disorder appropriately called Left Neglect. (Despite being largely unknown, or at least one I've never heard of, it is, indeed, a real disorder). The brain of someone with this disorder fails to recognize the left side of everything be it the left side of the body, what would normally be seen out of the left eye, the peripheral vision in the left eye, the left side of words, documents, pictures, etc. Genova's main character, Sarah, compares this to the average person not being able to turn their head all the way around to see the back. That's sort of what a person with Left Neglect experiences with the exception that the average person doesn't have to be reminded that there is something behind them they can't see. With Left Neglect, the person is convinced they are seeing and feeling everything there is to see and feel on the left. That is until they're told to do something with their left hand and can't seem to send the message from their brain to their hand.
Genova really did a fantastic job, without laying it on too thick, of depicting a type-A woman who really just fills her plate to overflowing, enduring a crazy packed schedule, working eighty hours a week, juggling the care of her three children along with her husband and the nanny, etc. Then, in a life changing second, this woman, Sarah, has an accident that causes traumatic brain injury. This is the aforementioned Left Neglect. What follows are Sarah's experiences being a successful, top-of-the-ladder, working mother who is resigned to living a sedentary and frustrating existence in which she doesn't even have control over her own body and has to accept care from everyone around her.
Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, as well as a degree in biopsychology, so you can only imagine the amount of intellectual detail or understanding she has available to her for this type of book. But she doesn't drown her story in fact; instead, she blends just the right amount of medical information with an expert amount of character building to create the perfect fictional novel. In fact, I found Genova's writing to be extremely engaging and insightful, which in addition to her science background, prove her to be quite the all-around talented woman. Her style of writing was smart, and the commentary made as part of the narrative was keen and funny. I loved the book for this aspect alone. Her observations of the world, and the way she expressed her thoughts, made me smile to myself frequently. She had a way of creating such empathy for the character. Not only did I really like Sarah, but I felt like I was experiencing Left Neglect with her. And I adored all the secondary characters as well.
Left Neglected was an engrossing novel that has excited me to both go back and read her debut, Still Alice, and to see what she writes next!
Sidenote: I read this book and wrote the review back in March!! I've had it sitting in a small pile of reviews all this time and never thought to post it!