So enthralling was Lisa Genova‘s Still Alice, I immediately went and got myself her other titles and hit ‘play’ one after the other. I don’t remember the last time I read three books by the same author in such immediate succession. That I got through all three in less than a week proves to me that Genova can write; she’s absolutely capable of crafting gorgeous, expressive prose. And yet after the stupendous originality of Alice, near-perfect sentences were not enough to save Love Anthony and Left Neglected from ultimate disappointment.
[Might I interrupt for a moment with an odd observation: something in Genova’s bio – that the first line mentions “valedictorian,” “Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard” perhaps? – tells me that she’s definitely Type A (not a judgment, just an observation; takes one to know one, ahem!). Interestingly enough, all three of her books deal with A-conditions: Alzheimer’s in Alice, Adultery and Autism in Anthony, and ADHD and Accident in Left Neglected (which is her only title without A-named characters, and instead includes Peanuts-inspired Charlie, Lucy, and Linus … but I’m jumping too far ahead).
Love Anthony, Genova’s latest, is the story of two women whose paths cross unknowingly on a Nantucket beach in the “Prologue” and then again with recognition almost at book’s end. If you choose to stick the novel in your ears, Debra Messing’s narration is okay enough in the beginning, but she never stops sounding like … well … Debra Messing, which proves to be a liability as the story clearly calls for some distinction between the two very different protagonists.
Beth Ellis asks her bartender husband to leave when she finds out he’s been cheating for a year with the restaurant’s pretty young hostess; with the help of her book club buddies, especially her new-agey, spiritually in-touch best friend, she reclaims the true self she thought she had to give up when she became a wife and mother. New to the island, Olivia Donatelli is recently separated from a husband she still loves, trying to heal from the sudden death of their young son who had autism. Beth writes a novel about a boy she’s never met but is all too real to her; Olivia takes family portraits, capturing other people’s stories – sometimes true, other times made up. Words and pictures will bring these women together, and then set each of them free.
See-through characters? Too many. Predictable storylines? Definitely. Unbelievable ending? Yup. Although if you can suspend your raised-eyebrow-no-way!, what I’ll just call the ‘Anthony-connection’ is perhaps the most heartfelt, authentic part of the story. Oh, the irony, the irony.
Did the commute pass more quickly? Were the miles easier on the legs? I’d say ‘yup … enough’ – enough to turn Left, unNeglected. Stay tuned.