Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This is a rare instance where I was drawn in by a gorgeous cover, but I also had read some good reviews, and the book is about an intriguing medical condition I'd heard of before but didn't know much about (random trivia!), so it wasn't hard for me to talk myself into it. And I'm glad I did.

Sarah is a HR executive at a multi-million-dollar international consulting firm in Boston. She works 80 hour weeks, while somehow maintaining a marriage, two houses, and three children. Although everything is stressful, it's going well, until one day when she is in a hurry and making a phone call while driving in the rain on the Mass Turnpike. A glance away from the road ends in a terrible car accident. Sarah wakes up in the hospital, not realizing it's 8 days later, with dozens of metal staples in her head which feels like its on fire. She also doesn't realize her husband is int he room, because he is on her left side. And she no longer has a left side. At least, her brain doesn't think she does. Due to brain damage, she no longer understands "left", and at first she also doesn't understand that she doesn't understand it. Everything seems normal to her. After a few days in the hospital, she explained it to her husband Bob in a way that was really eye-opening to me. She had him describe what was in the room. She then said, "what if I told you, you're only seeing half of what's in the room? Where would you look to see the rest?" That's what she feels like when someone tells her to "look left." It's like trying to see the middle of her back. She knows it's there but she also knows she never will see it.

There is a long stretch in the hospital and doing rehab. Her estranged mother arrives to help, although Sarah doesn't want her to as her mother has been pretty absent in her life since her six-year-old brother died when she was seven. Bob is struggling to keep them afloat since they were pretty close to the financial edge before this accident, and now their oldest son, in first grade, might be diagnosed with ADD.

It might not sound interesting, what with the hospital and rehab and all, but it truly is. The book is more about relationships - Sarah's and Bob's, Sarah's and her mother, Sarah and the left side of her body. In fact, I stayed up an hour past my usual bedtime to finish it! Sarah is a really real character, easy to identify with. I very much like that she's an ambitious and competitive woman who wouldn't even consider giving up her successful career after having kids, and I also really like that her marriage is quite good. That said, I did find the book a tad predictable. I figured what was going to happen with her mother. I figured what she and Bob were going to do about their finances. I figured out the twist with the poster at the hospital. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing - it shows that Ms. Genova (sorry, Dr. Genova - she's a neuroscientist!) has appropriately set up her plot elements, if perhaps a tad too solidly. And for those of you who hate ambiguity or very realistic (read: not 100% happy) endings, you'll be glad to know everything is wrapped up in a bow at the end. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps a tiny bit simplistic. But I did really like the book, and I highly recommend it.

I got this book used at the Friends of the Library book sale.


Sarah at SmallWorld said...

I've had this on my TBR list for awhile! Very anxious to read it now!

christa @ mental foodie said...

This one is just okay for me, probably because I had VERY HIGH expectation, because I loved her first novel, Still Alice.

Have you read Still Alice? If you haven't, you should! You must! :)

Here's my left Neglected review (had read Still Alice before I blog so no review):


Bailey said...

This one's been on my radar for awhile now, but I just haven't picked up a copy. I'll probably have too-high expectations because Still Alice was so good but oh well. Left Neglected definitely sounds good too!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I have been meaning to make time for this one, especially since I loved Still Alice so much! Terrific review