Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

About (from Simon & Schuster):

Sarah's life is on track—the fast track. She and her husband both work 80 hour weeks at high-powered jobs in Boston, while spending as much time as possible with their three small children. Sarah is a juggler extraordinaire, keeping her demanding job and her family as balanced as she can. But when a car accident leaves her recovering from Left Neglect, a neurological impairment that robs her of her ability to control the left side of her body, she can barely get out of bed on her own. As Sarah struggles to resume her over-scheduled life, she must juggle new things—her son's ADHD diagnosis, the return of her estranged mother, and her own limitations. Given a traumatic opportunity to reassess what is really important in life, Sarah must decide where her priorities lie.

My Thoughts:

I read Left Neglected a few months ago and believe it's a book that everyone should read. It is the kind of book that makes you stop and think about how life can change in an instant. Our culture and society in the U.S. is one that  has become very success driven and often for good reasons to be financially secure to take care of our families and hopefully have a retirement down the road.  This is a hard balance for many working parents. I understand that as I was a working professional in a high stress career prior to having my son and then chose to stay at home after he was born. I went back to work part time a few years ago and am able to work around my son's school schedule and have summers off,  for my family I am fortunate that I can do that. Our priorities can become unbalanced and often working 60 plus hours a week as parents with young children is an example of how that effects the family dynamics and each person individually. This is how Sarah and Bob's life was, as they both had highly stressful and demanding jobs and were raising three young children. Sarah was the master of multi-tasking often using her drive time to/from work and  taking her kids to/from daycare and to sporting events to make phone calls on her cell phone for her job.

Sarah has an accident while on her cell phone and driving. She suffers a  brain injury which manifests itself as Left Neglect, a neurological condition which causes a person to visually neglect the left hand side of space and they behave as if the left side of space is not there. Sarah has this condition of Left Neglect and although she has her vision, her brain doesn't process or register things on her left side. She cannot tell that something is on her left side and has difficulty controlling the left side of her body as well.  If  she sees a plate of food, she will only register that the right side has food and that the left side is empty. She may only see the numbers on the right side of a clock, numbers 12 through 6 and believe that the left side is blank.

The novel is written in the first person, from Sarah's point of view and follows Sarah from her accident through her rehabilitation process, her family's adjustment and her mother coming to help her and her family and their struggles working through past issue as mother and daughter. Ms. Genova did a fabulous job giving a voice to what Sarah was experiencing and thinking as she struggled through the rehabilitation process and realization of how different her life had become after her accident. As a medical professional, Occupational Therapist, I found that Ms. Genova's neuroscience background helped tremendously in explaining in layman's terms how the condition of Left Neglect can affect an individual such as Sarah.  I have treated patients with Left Neglect and understand the challenges and difficulties they face. Ms. Genova did an excellent job of allowing the reader to be inside the head of someone with Left Neglect and to get an understanding of how they may feel and what they experience. I did have some reservations about the way Occupational and Physical Therapy were presented in the book and felt that the portrayal of the roles of the two professions weren't always accurate. In my opinion, some of the treatments that the Physical Therapist was doing with Sarah would most often be done with an Occupational Therapist and I found the Occupational Therapist's role too limited in the rehabilitation process with Sarah.

This is a wonderful novel with a strong message about cell phone safety as well, as Sarah had her accident while on the phone and driving. It made me stop and think about my own cell phone use and how important a call or text can be compared to the safety of yourself and your family. I highly recommend this novel, this is the first book that I've read by Genova who is well known for her first book Still Alice. I have a copy on my bookshelf and look forward to reading that as well.

For more information on the author, go to Lisa Genova's Website.

Check out this interesting interview with the author, Lisa Genova on The Diane Rehm Show, HERE.

Check out this trailer for Left Neglected:


  1. This sounds like a powerful and painful book.

  2. This sounds so powerful - a reminder of what is important. Thanks for reviewing.

  3. I must read this one. I loved her other book and I know that I will enjoy this.

  4. Lovely review, Bonnie! I've had this title on my list for a while and one of these days I'll find time to read it.

  5. I was waiting for this novel to be published, I bought it the day it was released (I adored Still Alice).

    I agree with you, everyone should read it. The message it important.

    Great review.

  6. I loved both of her books (although after reading Still Alice I worried every time I forgot something). :)

    This book definitely put things in perspective, and made me so glad that cell phone use while driving is illegal in our state.

  7. Bonnie...I loved Still ALice by this author, but haven't had time for this one yet. Thanks for giving it such high marks.

  8. Usually I have an inkling of what a book is about when I see it but I had no idea this book was about a brain disorder!! From the cover and title, I just assumed it was a jilted lover type of story. Boy, was I wrong.


Thanks for visiting and sharing a comment!