Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
Joe O’Brien is a 44 year old Boston cop. He’s tough, he’s Irish, he’s intensely loyal, he loves his family and will do anything for them. But for him that didn’t include passing on to them the gene for Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s Disease is considered the most cruel way to die. Your body begins to break down in increments. Balance, strength, “chorea” or uncontrolled movements, anger, depression, inability to talk, breathe, or ultimately to function. All the while your brain understands everything around you. It’s an inherited gene and if you have a 50-50 chance of getting it if your parent has it. There is not treatment and no cure. It’s a cognitive death sentence.
Joe understood after his diagnosis that this is what his mother died from. He remembers her condition and eventual hospitalization being blamed on alcoholism. But now he knows better. Each of Joe’s four children must make the decision to have themselves tested to find out if this is their future, too. Will the ballet dancer inherit? The yoga instructor? The young father? The son who can’t seem to get his footing on life? What about Joe’s wife? How does watching your husband wither away affect you and your future. And what about Joe?
The thing about Lisa Genova’s books is that we feel like we’re inside the head of the person with the disease she’s written about. We all had Alzheimer’s with Alice in Still Alice. We all understood very well the non-verbal autistic boy’s feelings in Love Anthony. And the feeling of not having a “left” in Left Neglected.