Review: Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
If you are planning on reading Inside the O'Briens then I highly recommend stocking up on tissues and that you prepare yourself for a huge emotional investment. In her latest release, award winning novelist American Lisa Genova writes a sensitive account of one man's battle with Huntington's Disease and the affect this has on both him and his family.
As some people reading this review will already know, author Lisa Genova is also a neuroscientist and has previously authored the award winning Still Alice which is about a fifty-something university lecturer who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. The brilliance of Genova's work lies in sharing her medical knowledge in a way that is accessible via characters who are very easy to relate to. The O'Briens could be any family that we know. They live in the Irish Catholic part of their neighbourhood, are semi-religious and some members of the family are doing better than others. Joe O'Brien is heading toward middle-age, has been married to his wife Rosie for many years and has four adult children--the ratbagish and irresponsible Patrick, JJ who is married and about to start a family, Meghan has a successful career as a dancer and youngest Katie has recently found her niche as a yoga instructor. Joe's own career as a police officer has been a successful one. However, family life takes a very sudden change when Joe is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. If that news is not enough, what follows is the discovery that there is a fifty percent chance that each one of his children will have inherited Huntington's.
Through Inside the O'Briens we read about the realities of living with Huntington's--the shock of the diagnosis, followed by Joe's slow decline that takes away his independence and the reality that each of his children face knowing that this too may easily be their future, in particular Katie who, like her siblings knows that the truth can be revealed by a simple blood test, but is uncertain whether she wants to know. Two of her siblings opt to know, while another does not, adding to her uncertainty. And then, of course, there is the reality that there is no cure for Huntington's. I found this to be a very sensitive and emotional portrayal of the realities of living with a serious illness. I also appreciated the medical information that the author placed in between sections of the novel, as prior to reading this book, I only had a basic knowledge of Huntington's.
A big shout out and thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.