Thursday, December 15, 2011

[Book Review] LEFT NEGLECTED by Lisa Genova


Andrea reviews LEFT NEGLECTED by Lisa Genova (Gallery, 2011)

This is a most brilliant book about senior human resources analyst/wife/mother, Sarah Nickerson. A 37 year old with a Harvard Business School degree, Sarah feels she is at the top of her game as she is juggles a high-paying, stressful career, being a good wife of nine years to Bob, and a doting mother to seven-year-old Charlie, four-year-old Lucy, and nine-month-old Linus. (And, yes, she realizes, at the beginning of the novel, her children are named after characters in the Peanuts gang.)

At first I thought this book was going to read like Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It--the story of an overworked, overstressed mother who is a hedge-fund manager. I expected Genova’s Sarah to have an emotional breakdown, trying to decide if her career or children will be compromised. Needless to say, I was not expecting the wallop thrown at me.

Sarah tries to use her cell phone one day while driving in a rainstorm. Her car hydroplanes and is totaled. As a result of the car accident, Sarah is left brain-damaged. After being in coma for eight days, her symptoms begin surfacing. After going through batteries of tests, doctors and therapists concur that Sarah has Hemispatial Neglect, more commonly known as Left Neglect. This is a common occurrence when patients have trauma to the brain, and the most common symptom is mentally detaching from their body’s left side. Sarah logically knows she has a left side of her body and there is a left side of the room, but she cannot see or feel any of that.

With four months of therapy and rehabilitation behind her (because that is all the insurance would pay), Sarah is still using a cane and is only getting glimpses of the left side of her world. As driven as she is, she is determined to return to her previously “normal” life.

This is a well-written book that shows it just takes a few seconds for your world to change, but it can take a lifetime to get it back.

Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Library

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