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Bravo Lisa Genova!

Lisa Genova’s new book “Left Neglected” about a multitasking superwoman and guilt-ridden mother, who was transformed in an unguarded instant into a ‘Left Neglect patient,’ is, in my opinion, even better than “Still Alice”. I know a lot about hemineglect; I did my PhD on it way back in the early 1980s when only a handful of researchers were studying it and publishing articles about it, and since then have published and written about it often, including cases in my books, and have supervised students in the area. (Today it is a very “popular” neuropsychological disorder to research.) So I was looking forward to reading a novel written in the “1st person” where the protagonist shares her experiences about living with left neglect. I was prepared for a few instances of “poetic license” where the author doesn’t get the facts right either because she doesn’t know enough about the disorder or for literary purposes, and was delighted to discover that this wasn’t the case in this book. Lisa Genova has done her research on the disorder, including the research methods used to study neglect, and how it is rehabilitated. Certainly, her protagonist, Sarah Nickerson, was very lucky in that her intellect was not impaired– not always the case of course in a patient with such severe and persisting neglect – but I have assessed patients like this. And of course her intact intelligence and memory was what allowed Sarah to write so lucidly about her experiences. For example, she mused that being asked to describe anything on her left felt like “trying to describe something on the back of my own head.” Lisa Genova’s skilful and sensitive portrayal of Sarah’s experience of neglect -- her unawareness and unconcern that there is anything much wrong with her, the childish rehabilitation tasks she must do day after day, the disappearance of her children if they move into her left space – expands this heart-warming family story about finding a balance into an engrossing case study on left neglect. While this is first and foremost a good story that will make you chuckle, even as it makes you think, if you happen to be a health professional or student and you know what neglect is, but you don’t know how it feels, add this to your essential reading list!
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