Staff Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O’Briens

by Lisa Genova

In this book, author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova once again invites us into the lives of a family dealing with a neurological disease. Her previous books have given readers insight into Alzheimer’s Disease (Still Alice), autism (Love Anthony) and Left Neglect (Left Neglected). Rather than a laundry list of symptoms and medical-speak, though, she always gives us characters you come to care about and relate to, and shows you what the impact is not only on the sufferer, but the family as well.

This time, it’s Huntington’s Disease, and it has a devastating effect on the O’Brien family. Joe, the father and husband, is a Boston cop with 25 years of service, a loving wife and four grown kids who all still live at home with them. What he initially dismisses as a bad knee, random twitches and normal outbursts of anger turns out to be Huntington’s Disease.

While it’s a crushing blow for Joe and his wife, Rosie, to accept the fact that he is facing only about 10 more years to live and an agonizing death, it’s overwhelming when they’re told that each of their four children might have the genetic marker for the disease. You wouldn’t think it’s possible to compound this kind of pain, but on the night they finally decide to tell their children about Joe’s diagnosis, they find out that their oldest son and his wife are expecting a baby — a baby who well might end up with HD if the father, JJ, has inherited it from Joe.

The four children are left with the dilemma of getting a test to see if they are gene positive for Huntington’s or living with uncertainty. As they each struggle in their own ways, Joe’s symptoms progress to the point of being so noticeable that he has to leave the police force — a tremendous blow for a man for whom the uniform and badge are a part of his very being. Rosie is being her usual selfless and supportive self, while internally struggling with the possibility of losing every member of her family to Huntington’s. It tests her strength and her faith.

The emotions are raw and real in this book, as a family deals with bottom-line issues. Lisa Genova has done it again.

– review by Deborah

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