Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This novel seems to look at the busy modern world and aims to demonstrate just how fragile we are and how easy it is to take for granted our health and our families – the things that are most important. It uses the author’s expertise in Neuroscience to do this. Sarah and her family have fallen into the mechanics of life. She and her husband have highly powered and stressful careers. They work their children’s lives into their work lives and have no time for anything else. They are existing and not living which seems to be the message of this book. Sarah is in a near fatal accident and she is left with a life changing illness. Left neglect can be a difficult thing to comprehend to those of us that take our healthy brains for granted and for the author to cohesively explain it to us through succinct examples, metaphors and clever analogies was very impressive. Another gratifying element of the novel is that it can be very funny. Before you read the novel you think horrible accident, unimaginable consequences – oh dear how sad. You do not think ‘oh I bet this book is funny’. (Please seek help if you do) But a few parts of this novel had me laughing out loud (on a train…filled with people…very embarrassing). The positivity and adaptability of the human spirit are what shine through in this novel. Even when Sarah is crying in frustration the tone of the novel does not become miserable and depressive. Which is really good because when too much negativity is focused on then it can ostracise the reader. The type of illness that Sarah lives with is very interesting and so hard to imagine that it made you stick with her through her journey. The character of Sarah and her humour are what makes this a good story. As it is not a plot driven novel, this is very important. Although I loved learning about Left neglect and I loved the character of Sarah (she is funny – i would be her friend). I did have a few problems with this novel. I felt that Sarah’s family were very two dimensional. We got to know Sarah inside and out but her family were just too unrealistic for me to get attached to. To start with, the author appears to have written two different personalities for the husband and used them both. To begin with her husband is so understanding, will do anything for her, has endless patience with her and seems to have a heart of gold. But then when she wants to move he is suddenly a big sulky baby and so obsessed with money and his life that he tries to pressure her into going back to work – a far cry for the angel we thought he was, it just didn’t make sense. Never having been in this situation, I could be way off but I just felt that there were no realistic cracks in him, like a loss of patience with her or a break down over suddenly becoming the only working person in their life. I know that her mother is there to look after her but he still has to help. There was just not enough realistic human emotions from him to make this novel a better story. Another point that really irritated me is that we saw no problems in the children, I know that if my mum went from running around like a mad woman to dribbling down her face and clutching her own boobs then it would screw with my brain especially when it is such a hard illness to explain and her children are under 7. She explains the illness to her husband as he exclaims at how hard it is to understand why she can’t just look left but her children don’t even ask. We must assume they have already been told but for this to be a novel about how families come first and that a tragedy can show us how important family are, then you want to see the repercussions from all angles. As this book doesn’t do this it is essentially a demonstration of Left Neglect and how ONE woman deals with it. So it isn’t really the novel that it could be. There is too much positivity in this novel and for the topic that it was grappling with. It just didn’t resonate or hit home. This novel would have been more realistic and relatable if the family weren’t so rich and if they didn’t have a convenient relation to come and take care of the Sarah just in the nick of time. It would have made for a much richer and realistic portrayal of how real families would have to deal with a crisis like this. They would have to go on benefits and not have two houses! As always it would be great to hear what anyone else thinks so just comment. Having said all this, I did enjoy the humour in this novel and learning about the brain, so for a quick read I would recommend it. Recommended for: people interested in Neuroscience, People who enjoy funny quick reads that you don’t have to think too much about.

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