Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected is the latest from Still Alice author, Lisa Genova.  Still Alice (reviewed HERE) was one of my favorite books of 2009, and was discussed and well-loved by my book club.  I bought Left Neglected on the Nook the minute I heard it was out.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In an instant, life can change forever.

Sarah Nickerson is a high-powered working mom with too much on her plate and too little time. One day, racing to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world. As she struggles to recover, she discovers she must embrace a simpler life, and in so doing begins to heal the things she’s left neglected in herself, her family, and the world around her.

My review:

Sarah is busy.  She and her husband and their nanny juggle parenting responsibilities for their 3 kids, and 80 hour work weeks are common.  They live in an affluent neighborhood, own a vacation home in Vermont, and race through their days at a breakneck pace until the minute everything changes in a horrible crash.

Sarah’s accident leaves her with a traumatic brain injury called Left Neglect Syndrome, a fascinating condition in which there is damage to the right hemisphere of the brain that causes the patient to experience a deficit in attention and failure to recognize the left side of their body or space.  They are unaware of the left of things.  Left is no longer there.  It is non-existent.

While reading about Sarah’s disregard for all things ‘left’ I tried to imagine that.  It’s not a visual problem and that’s the only way I could picture it.  Not seeing the left is one thing, but not realizing you have a left hand, or not being able to fathom where it might be, is quite another.  Only noticing things on the right (for instance, only your right leg) makes it difficult to walk.  So many things we take for granted, like getting dressed, become huge, time-consuming hurdles.

Sarah’s mother comes to help with the kids during Sarah’s months-long rehabilitation, which is a blessing and a curse.  Their relationship is complicated and distant initially due to a childhood tragedy and maternal neglect, but one of the blessings (yes, blessings) of Sarah’s brain injury is the time it affords her to grow closer to her mother and repair that relationship.  Another blessing of the brain injury:  she comes to know and appreciate the special challenges of her young son Charlie, recently diagnosed with ADD.

Sarah gets used to her new normal and learns to adapt to her special needs, but it’s a bumpy road.  She needs to come to terms with who she was and how things have changed.  It’s a painful process but not without it’s joys.

Lisa Genova is Harvard-educated with a degree in Biopsychology and a Ph.D. in Nueroscience.  She creatively pours all that scientific knowledge of the brain into her writing.  In Left Neglected she makes you understand and really feel what it means to be brain injured, just as she did in her wonderful debut novel, Still Alice, about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Left Neglected is terrific and compelling.  And if there is a moral to the story, I’d say it’s:

Slow down, people!  Pay attention.  The journey is the destination.

Note to self:

Sometimes I am truly busy.  I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it.

Other times I am just busy being busy.  I tell myself I thrive on multi-tasking and I think I do it well, but does anyone really need to do 14 things at once?  Must we make good use (or, rather, multiple use) of every second of every day?

I used to make phone calls while driving because I felt that driving was sort of forced down-time and what a perfect way to make it productive.  I looked around me and saw other drivers doing the very same thing.  I did it all the time until they enacted a law here in California forbidding it.  My rational brain agreed with the law and believed that distracted drivers are a true danger to themselves and others.  But even so I didn’t think it applied to me, so I kept doing it for awhile even after the law took effect.  It was a hard habit to break.

But I am now reformed.  Not because of a horrible accident or a close call or even a ticket, but because of a book.  Thank you, Lisa Genova.  I know it’s dangerous and realize I am not so special that it can’t happen to me.


38 Responses

  1. Wow, that book must be really amazing since it affected you so deeply.

  2. You are the second person that has given a glowing review of this book. It sounds like a really interesting read – going to check it out on my Nook right now!!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephanie C and Stephanie C, Lisa Munley. Lisa Munley said: Miracle of miracles! I reviewed a book! Left Neglected by Lisa Genova: […]

  4. What an interesting concept for a book. It must have been a good one because clearly it had a huge impact on you. If you are looking for something to do while driving, try listening to an audiobook – that’s what I always do! 🙂

    • I’ve never gotten into audiobooks, I think because I don’t have a commute. I just bounce around town, picking up kids, going to the store, etc. It seems with an audiobook you’d need a longer stretch of time to get into it rather than 10 minute chunks.

  5. I have this one on my wish list…I haven’t yet read Still Alice, which is another one I’m hoping to read this year.

    Great review!

    • I think Still Alice was the more powerful of the two- I loved them both, but Still Alice is probably my favorite. I read it with my book club and the discussion was great so maybe that’s part of the reason why I have special feelings for it.

  6. I loved this book too (and reviewed it last week). I wonder how long we have to wait for another book!

    • I read your review!! Really strong. I think great books take time, although there are some authors who just crank out the titles super fast. How do they do it??

  7. Wow, I really think I need to read this book now!

  8. Wow, I’ve been reading a lot of reviews about this book. It’s already in my wishlist.

  9. When I first heard about Left Neglected I immediately added my name to the wait list. I plan to start reading it soon. I’ve read glowing reviews about Still Alice, but haven’t read it yet. Like you I tend to multitask A LOT! But recently I’ve realized I can no longer function that way. Tiredness and stress led me to change my work habits.

    • All these wiz-bang gadgets designed to make our lives easier somehow have the opposite effect and can stress us out! I know we all need to multitask to some degree but at what expense?

  10. This book sounds so scary and realistic. I have heard it mentioned before, but have not sought it out. After reading your review, I know this is a book I want to get to really soon, and I am happy to hear that it influenced you to chance your ways when talking and driving. I am also glad to see you!! I have missed seeing your posts!

    • Heather!! I didn’t find it scary, exactly, but it definitely had me thinking about what is truly important, and I’ll tell you, it’s not that next call you need to make. I’m going to try to blog regularly from now on. We’ll see how it goes!

  11. Thanks so much for reading LEFT NEGLECTED and for taking the time to write such a great review! I’m so glad you enjoyed it —and SO glad you’ve now stopped using your phone in your car.

    Thanks and Be well,

    • HI! Wow, a celebrity visit! Thank you so much for coming by. Your books have given me much food for thought, and I anxiously await whatever comes next!! I’m in awe of your tremendous talent!

  12. HI Lisa! I can’t wait to read this; I’m really hoping I can catch her at a book signing event but haven’t been able to make schedules jive. yet. I have two friends who downloaded to their Kindle the day it was released but I want a physical signed copy to go with my Still Alice!

  13. Excellent review, Lisa! I hate to see people making calls and texting while they drive. This book sounds really great.

    • Hi Susan! I started putting my purse (and phone) in the trunk to remove the temptation. It’s helping me to break the habit. The book is really great! Let me know if you read it.

  14. it’s not often that a sophomore effort lives up to the debut but it certainly sounds like this one does.

  15. Excellent review Lisa! I’ve been drawn to this book as I’m an Occupational Therapist and have worked with patients like Sarah so I have that understanding. Plus, I am a mom and this book sounds like it speaks to the heart. I was considering buying a copy for my Kindle that I just got but wasn’t sure if it would be a good read or a “real” book would be a better experience. Since you read it on the Nook and it impacted you it doesn’t sound like it matters. Have you listened to the interview with the author on Diane Rehm from NPR? It is excellent and it made me think that I need to stop talking on the phone and driving as well. Check out the interview it is so worth listening to. She mentions what she is working on next and I can’t wait for that book. How lucky you are to have the author read your review and leave a comment:) Excellent review Lisa!

  16. Your review really got my attention, Lisa. Yes, multi-taking can be effective, but you make a great point about being busy for the sake of being busy. So glad to know that LEFT NEGLECTED had such an impact on you.

  17. Still Alice is one of the best books I’ve read and also one of the favorites of my book club. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Great review.

  18. Great reminder for me to just slow down and take life one breath at a time. I have Still Alice on my shelves and will plan to read this one too.

  19. Awesome review. I’ve had this on my list and it sounds fantastic.

  20. […] my review, check out these other glowing reviews of Left Neglected by Lesley’s Book Nook and Books on the Brain. var blogurl=""; var needemail="1"; var nowurl="2939"; var […]

  21. Read it. Reviewed it. Loved it.

  22. I have had Still Alice on my bedside hoping to read it soon. Especially since I am taking a Psy. class this semester. I am hoping if it is in my budget to read Left Neglected. I was a Psy. Nurse years ago. This should be up my alley. Ms. Genova was here last month. I wanted so much to go to her book signing, but unfortunately I had to work that day. Her books sound amazing.

  23. I think how this could have been me so many times in the past when I have been driving distracted. Sounds like a book I will definitely want to read especially since I really liked Still Alice

  24. I just found your blog and am a new follower. I have been trying to break the habit of talking and texting while driving also but this book has definitely made me realise life is more of a blessing then saving a few minutes.

    Great review

  25. I abslutely loved the book and recognized so much about myself in it. However, suddenly out of the blue comes the part about “it must have been God’s plan to show me I needed to slow down or whatever” and I felt so disappointed. No one being an atheist that held nothing for me and two, who would think that getting someone half killed to help someone realize that they need to slow down would think this to be a good plan??

  26. […] REViews: Books on the Brain Reading on a Rainy Day Bibliophile By the Sea Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search for this […]

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