Whenever Lisa Genova releases a new novel, it is automatically my must read book of the season before I've even read the first line. Each of her books focus on a neurological disorder and the emotional impact of the disease on the patient and those close to them. A PhD neuroscientist, she uses her thorough knowledge of the brain to enrich and fill out her novels while also creating interesting and complex characters and compelling storylines. I have loved every one of her books and this one is no exception.
Every Note Played centers on Richard, an accomplished classical pianist, his ex-wife, Karina, and his estranged daughter, Grace. When Richard first notices clumsiness is his fingers, he tries to ignore it and even allows his manager to write it off as a case of tendonitis. But when his symptoms worsen, he is forced to seek medical attention. The diagnosis, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, shocks and devastates him. He is forced to rely on strangers to care for him and eventually on Karina, who makes the incredibly generous offer of allowing him to move back in to their family home so she and Grace can help care for him. Richard is a self-centered, rude and not very likable man, but as his condition inevitably worsens, his humanity shines through and he manages to repair some of the damage he has caused to those closest to him.
While I adore all of Genova's books this one hit particularly close to home for me. My husband's spunky and adorable grandmother died of the the bulbar variant of the disease a few years ago, and completely lost the ability to speak for the last several years of her life. One of my closest friends lost her father to the disease when he was in his early sixties. ALS affects people of all races, ages and walks of life, but even if you've never witnessed the disease up close, you're sure to be moved by this deftly told and emotional story. Just keep the tissues easily accessible.
And for bonus material, her TED talk on things you can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease is fascinating and educational.