A while ago, I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova and really enjoyed the read, so I knew that when this book turned up on my library’s book club list, I was in for a ride. I finished it about a week before our discussion, and I have been ruminating on the book ever since I closed it and had a visceral reaction to the ending.
Inside the O’Briens is a look inside the lives of an Irish Catholic family living in Boston, Massachusetts. The patriarch of the family, Joe, is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease shortly after the book begins. From there, is examines how the family deals with the diagnosis as well as the harsh reality that each of Joe and Rosie’s four children—JJ, Meghan, Katie, and Patrick—all have a 50 percent chance of carrying the Huntington’s gene. If they have that gene, they will eventually get Huntington’s…and die from it.
This book definitely takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster of difficulties as the children struggle to decide if they want to know whether or not they carry the gene, and how the whole family deals with Joe’s descent into the disease.
One of the sweetest and almost heart-wrenching moments of the book is between Joe and his daughter Katie. I cannot give details due to spoilers, but I think that their relationship is truly special within the novel. All of the children are important of course, however, because of this moment and another ting that they share, the two are linked a little differently. I am sure that any of his children could have shared the same moment, but I also feel there was a reason that Lisa Genova chose Katie.
I cannot reveal too much for fear of spoiling it for you, but I would like to address one of the major things that appears right at the beginning, before you even begin to read the story. There is a statistic written at the bottom of the first page that 90 percent of people at risk for Huntington’s chose not to find out for sure if they have the gene or not.
After reading that and then throughout reading the novel, I was trying to figure out if I would want to know if I were in that position. I honestly do not see a choice for me—it is a no-brainer—although I do admit that actually being in this position is different from theorizing. Nevertheless, really I would need to know.
I do not actually like the idea of knowing my fate in that way, nor am I the kind of person who would want to know when they die (and this actually gives a rough idea of that), but I would still have to know. Why? Simply because I know that I want children in the future, and I would want to know so that I could ensure that they never get the gene. I would not be able to change anything about my fate, but I would be able to ensure that I did not pass it on.
From what I gather, this book gives an accurate portrayal about what life is like with Huntington’s, including demonstrating the stigma and unawareness surrounding the horrible and heartbreaking disease. If you like this sort of book, such as if you were a fan of Still Alice or any of Jodi Picoult’s novels, I highly recommend this one. Just beware of the ending. It makes so much sense to me now, but in the moment…well, you will understand, I think, when you read it.