Saturday, July 30, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected

Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.
In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.

My take: I am asked what a good book would be for a book club and I hesitate. I want to be able to recommend a book that 1) has the power to transform or alter perception 2) is written well 3) is clean enough that I can look the ladies in the eye at church after they have read it. This one passes all three of my requirements.

I'm going to work backwards.

The book is clean. Yes, there is swearing but I don't recall anything blatantly offensive. Yes, there is sex as Sarah reconnects with that portion of herself and her husband. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of the book in regard to Sarah's healing.

The book is written well. It struck me, in fact, that Genova is more than a novelist but also an essayist. She writes each chapter so it connects with the book but the chapters are like well written essays. Each one addresses something in particular while following the chronology of Sarah's life. On top of this, I loved the protagonist. She is snarky, spunky, intelligent, high achieving, and juggling the demands of career and home. Genova describes the ins and outs of motherhood and appointments in a way that I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry. The constant struggle of balancing these aspects often do have me either mentally writing a blog post in my head or curling up in fetal position when I hit my tipping point. Genova seems to understand this very well. 

The content makes the reader think. The story is about a woman who suffers TBI and maintains her memories, her speech, hearing, sight, taste, touch, most of her neurological function and all of her wit and intellect. What she loses is the connection to the left side of her body. It still works. It's still connected to her brain. She simply does not recognize it. There is no left. She doesn't own a left leg because it doesn't exist. On the other hand, if someone taps her left leg or scratches her left arm, she feels it or it hurts. She has to retrain herself to pay attention to the parts of her body that don't exist to her anymore. Her progress or lack thereof could be viewed as tedious as it is slow and, like real life, a neurological injury does not fully heal. On the other hand, if reading the chapters like essays, each chapter offers wisdom and growth. On a personal note, it gave me a huge insight and respect for my father's brain surgery which caused neurological damage 16 years ago and his tenacity to retrain his brain.

Abstractly, the book is about neglect. In one part of the book, Sarah remembers an article that explains the 20% rule. We only need to understand 20% of something to be effective doing 80% of it. Trying to understand something 100% is a waste of time and we will neglect something else in our life of import. The story nudges the reader to look at her own life and assess what she may be neglecting that is important? What can be simplified and scaled back to manageable bite sizes in order to concentrate on what is important? What can be forsaken?

This is an awesome read. It is funny, moving, and cerebral.


Shirley said...

Sounds incredible! I love a good cerebral read now and then and this book has been on my radar for some time now.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I didn't like this nearly as much as Still Alice.

Bonnie said...

This was the first book by Genova that I have read and I absolutely loved it. I am really looking forward to reading Still Alice as I've heard it is even better!

Lisa Genova said...

Thanks so much for reading LEFT NEGLECTED and for taking the time to post such a great review at your blog! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

And so glad you can confidently recommend it to the ladies at church! :)

If you're on Facebook and would like to stay in touch, please join me at I hope to see you there.

Thanks again and Happy Summer,