Review: Left Neglected, Lisa Genova

| 22 February , 2011 | Reply

Kristy McCormick

Left Neglected is the second novel from author Lisa Genova. And with her first book, Still Alice, being one of my favourites I couldn\’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one. And I was not disappointed.

Left Neglected is the story of Sarah Nickerson. A hugely successful human resources executive at a large company in Boston, Sarah works 60-80 hours per week and is at the top of her game. Add to that a husband working similar hours, three kids and two houses and Sarah seems to have it all. But trying to cram in work, caring for the kids, ferrying to and from school and activities means that, at some point, something has got to give.

And, unfortunately, that something is Sarah. In a rush to get to work one day, Sarah takes her eyes off the road for a split second while she searches for her phone. Eight days later she wakes up in hospital, having undergone emergency brain surgery -lucky to have survived a horrific car accident at all.

The aftermath of this accident though, and the result of the traumatic brain injury she sustained is a condition known as Left Neglect. Basically, this means that Sarah is unaware of anything on the left side of her body. She cannot see items positioned to her left side, nor is she aware of the left side of her own body. It is as though the whole left side of her world has simply disappeared.

The implications of her injury are devastating, and Sarah realises that in the blink of an eye her whole world has been dramatically altered. She has, seemingly overnight, gone from a woman in charge and in control of her whole life, to no longer being able to walk, dress herself or eat a meal in its entirety (without leaving the whole left side of the plate untouched). How can she go back to work, or even care for her kids if she is unable to care for herself? As Sarah struggles to recover, and as she goes from thinking she will get better in no time to realising that things may never be what they were, we are taken on this journey with her. We are her companions as she travels this new, bizarre and incredibly frustrating world. And, I have to tell you, it\’s a remarkable ride.

As well as Sarah\’s rehabilitation, factor in a complicated relationship with a long absent mother – whom Sarah must now depend on for help; a son newly diagnosed with ADHD, whose struggles parallel Sarah\’s own; and a husband whose job is on tenuous ground and you have not only the story of a woman recovering from a brain injury, but a whole family coming to terms with life-changing events.

One thing this book is not though – and that is just your standard story of overworked mum who suffers a tragedy, realises what life is really about and, lo and behold, makes it all better! Of course Sarah\’s life is turned upside down, and of course she is forced to make some changes, but these are directly due to her disability rather than her suddenly realising that she had a crap life to begin with. It is more a detailed chronology of Sarah\’s recovery, with a totally believable, warm and sometimes humorous story, of a loving family forever altered by their new circumstances.

The other great aspect of this book, is that it gives you Sarah\’s story from her perspective – the patients perspective. The condition of left neglect was described from Sarah\’s growing understanding of it and you really got a feel for what she was going through. Having worked as an occupational therapist with people who have suffered brain injury in the past it was fascinating for me to see the picture painted from the patients perspective. And it certainly made for a riveting read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it as a great read for anyone who loves an intriguing story with plenty of emotion, warmth and where you learn something fascinating along the way!

Available Now: Simon & Schuster RRP $32.99


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