Saturday, March 21, 2015

For Your TBR Pile - Inside the O'Briens

Inside the O'Briens
By Lisa Genova
Published: April 7, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

From GoodReads: Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Thank you NetGalley and Gallery Books for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

This tweet sums up all my thoughts about this book:

I hadn't read Still Alice, but was aware of it once it started to appearing on all the movie award nominations lists (Currently, I am number 98 on my library's waiting list for the book).

So when there was an opportunity to read Inside the O'Briens, I snatched it up like the last cupcake at a bake sale. I love patient stories--especially ones that bring to life what it's like to live with illness. My love for medical writing and patient education goes way back to my earlier writing days. Inside the O'Briens takes a look at how a disease can disrupt an entire family and make them question their places in their family structure.

Watching Huntington’s Disease change Joe from being a protective and strong-willed father of four to the unstable patient was heartbreaking. His Boston pride beamed from this book. I loved not only the way Lisa Genova portrayed the city, but the working class, as well. Joe's role as a police officer was firmly rooted in his identity within the social structure of his family, but also his town.

Even more so, Katie's journey from flakey youngest sibling to firmly standing up for herself and her future was heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. I love that she wrote positive affirmations on her walls with a black sharpie. My favorite scene was when she decided to paint over them after having a very emotional breakdown, only to discover her family rewrite each one for her. 

The O'Briens were a very loving family, strongly rooted in their religious believes and blue-collared upbringing, but they weren't perfect. It was interesting not only to learn more about this incredibly debilitating disease, but to watch how the threat of it challenged each one of characters' futures. 

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