I devoured this book in a couple of hours and then bawled my eyes out, such is the power of Lisa Genova’s storytelling and her ability to walk that fine line between educating you on the harsh realities of a degenerative disease and telling a beautiful story that keeps you turning the pages whilst knowing what is to come. I fell in love with Lisa Genova as a writer when I read Still Alice and she brought to life the brutal reality of a Harvard University professor’s journey with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her second novel Left Neglected – about a woman who wakes up after a car accident with a little-known condition called left side neglect – was even better than the first (in my humble opinion) and put her firmly on my list of favourite authors so I was expecting big things of this book and wasn’t disappointed. So, here is my review of Every Note Played: essentially a couple of paragraphs telling you why you need to get this book in your hands!
Neuroscientist turned novelist, Genova brings rich depth and technical insight to her writing from her background in medical research and teaching; when you read her work you truly feel that you’ve transcended fiction and get to understand the brutal reality of what it feels like to start losing control of your body and mind which is half fascinating and half terrifying! In this case we get to experience ALS through the eyes of Richard, who mere months before was an acclaimed concert pianist performing all over the world to sold out auditoriums; his music has been his life and when we meet him, he’s divorced, estranged from his only daughter Grace and trying to comprehend his diagnosis.
Starting with being paralysed on his right side, ALS slowly but surely robs him of the use of his hands – and therefore his ability to practice his beloved music – and when he becomes unable to look after himself, he returns to live with his ex-wife and we start to understand more about them and their marriage. We see that Karina is almost as paralysed as Richard, with despair, regret and resentment; for a musical career not realised and a man whose career consumed him and failed her and her daughter.
But it’s not that simple, life never is, is it and this is the beautiful heart of the story; watching how they come together and start to heal, how Richard’s illness inadvertently helps them to find acceptance, forgiveness and ultimately freedom?
In true Lisa Genova style Every Note Played is a beautifully written yet unflinching and truly heartbreaking account of the daily realties of living with a degenerative disease and you’ve just got to read it. I’ll be honest, I find her books not the easiest to read – and am a blotchy, tearful mess when I finish them – but they’re important books, need to be read and I recommend them to everybody I know. That says it all really doesn’t it?!