Left Neglected is another remarkable piece by Lisa Genova, the author of Still Alice. She has a knack for crafting the startling and painful reality that illness brings to people. They are devastating to read, but are also amazing and I can’t stop reading once I’ve started. Every time I walk into the bedroom I stop and read through a paragraph. I haven’t done that with a book in ages.
Left Neglected features a very overworked woman, trying to have it all with an extremely stressful job, three children, a husband on the brink of losing his job and mountains of inescapable debt. Just reading about it has me stressed out.
It all comes to a sudden halt when Sarah is involved in a massive car accident that leaves her with brain damage. The interesting thing about her condition is that she doesn’t always realize she has it. I remember a brief mention of Left Neglect when I was studying psychology in university, but it was difficult to understand at the time. Lisa Genova does an excellent job of bringing the condition to light. Essentially “Left” does not exist. There is no awareness of the left side of anything, but the brain fills in the gaps with previous knowledge so the person suffering from it has no idea they’re not aware of the left. It doesn’t seem so bad until you realize that means you can’t walk or use your left arm or do anything that involves two limbs. It’s a difficult condition to work with because while some people are cured of it, others are stuck with it forever.
Lisa also covers two other mental health issues in the book; clinical depression and ADHD. It changes the dynamics of the relationships and in many ways enriches them. Left Neglect changes everything for Sarah and helps her to understand her life in a new way, how to relate to her son and her mother in ways that she was unable to before her injury. It’s refreshing to read a book where although the mental disorder causes significant stress and difficulty, it is also presented in a positive light. It’s not the end of the world when mental health issues are encountered. It’s the beginning of a new one, it just depends on the steps you take that controls what that new world is going to be like.
If you haven’t already read a book by Lisa Genova, I cannot recommend her more. She tackles really difficult issues in ways that allow you to experience them more deeply. Her books breed empathy and understanding for the struggles around us. I have another of hers on my shelf waiting for me, which I’m sure will be equally devastating as Still Alice was, but I’m reading it anyway. If there is anything that Lisa’s books stress, it is to live for today. Enjoy your present, because your future is not certain. Do what you love and be with those you love as well.
Bravo Lisa for bringing a new level of understanding to these sometimes incomprehensible realities.
Check out her other books here: http://lisagenova.com/books/
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