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Left Neglected (Genova)

Left Neglected 
Lisa Genova, 2011
Simon & Schuster
327 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781439164631


Summary 
Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving 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 jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She has done research on the molecular etiology of depression, Parkinson's Disease, drug addiction, and memory loss following stroke.

She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and DementiaUSA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association. She lives with her husband and two children in Cape Cod. Still Alice is her first novel. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews 
In neuroscientist Genova's second novel (after Still Alice), a car crash gives a successful younger woman an obscure neurological syndrome called Left Neglect. Upwardly mobile Sarah and Bob Nickerson live in suburban Massachusetts with their three small children. Both work 60-hour weeks, though the economic downturn looms. When Sarah wakes up eight days after crashing her car on the way to work, the doctors inform her of her condition, which causes her brain to ignore the left side of everything, and she begins a long and uncertain recovery. Genova vividly describes Sarah's fear and frustration about a recovery that may never come, turning her struggle into a lesson in forgiveness, acceptance, and adaptability; insights reveal themselves with extreme clarity, and small moments between Bob and Sarah illustrate his stalwart love, though readers may want a more thorough investigation of his growing role as caretaker, and as a character. More accessible than her somber first book, which dealt with early-onset Alzheimer's, the central condition causes readers to wonder what brain disease she will think of next.
Publishers Weekly


With a Ph.D. in neuroscience, Genova brings an expertise to this novel about a woman suffering from a little-known neurological syndrome. Sarah Nickerson is a high-powered business executive, juggling 80 hours of work, marriage, and life with three young children. Following a car accident, she wakes up to learn she's suffering from brain damage, a syndrome called left neglect that leaves her unable to feel or see anything on her left side. As she struggles to recover, Sarah also copes with other aspects of her life "left neglected" owing to her busy lifestyle: her relationship with her mother, her son's inability to concentrate, and her own quality of life. Once again, the author of Still Alice, a best-selling debut about a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer's, has created a character with a compelling voice and perspective in a moving story that shows how brain trauma forces people to change their lives. Verdict: This is a positive novel about hope and strength that should find a market with those who appreciate contemporary women's fiction and readers who either are coping with brain disorders or have family members with these conditions.—Lesa Holstine, Glendale
Library Journal


Neuroscientist Genova (Still Alice, 2009) once again personalizes an actual disabling brain condition to create irresistibly readable and moving fiction. —Michele Leber
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. Is Sarah better off at the end of the novel than at the beginning? If so, in what ways?

2. Sarah has a series of anxious dreams in the nights leading up to the accident. How would you interpret these dreams? What do you think her subconscious is trying to tell her?

3. Is Sarah a better mother before or after the crash? How do you think she would answer that question? Consider the amount of time she spends with her kids, her ability to keep track of them, and the level of participation in their lives.

4. The second time Sarah and Bob meet with Charlie's teacher about his progress in class, they learn that he is the target of some bullying. Ms. Gavin tells them many children experience this whether or not they have disabilities. Do you agree with Charlie's teacher? Do disabilities like ADHD make a child more of a target than other kids?

5. Sarah's Type A personality seems like it should help her through her physical therapy, but her friend and therapist Heidi believes she needs to stop trying to "win" and learn how to "adjust." Do you agree? Do you think by adjusting to her new limitations, Sarah holds herself back from a quicker recovery?

6. If Sarah had recovered completely, do you think she would have gone back to her high pressured job at Berkley Consulting?

7. While Sarah is in the rehabilitation hospital, she and Heidi trade watches, even though Sarah's is clearly the more valuable of the two. Toward the end of the novel, Sarah notes that Heidi is still wearing her expensive watch, but never asks for it back. Why do you think she doesn't reclaim her watch?

8. After Sarah's accident, Bob uses his cell phone at least once while driving in the car with Sarah and their kids. Why do you think he does that? Do we sometimes make exceptions for ourselves and do something unhealthy or risky in the interest of saving time or getting more done (like texting or using a cell phone while driving) even when we know it is dangerous? Why do you think that is?

9. At one point Bob argues that he doesn't think Vermont is a place to live full time when they are young. He sees it as a place to spend their retirement. Do you agree? What are the benefits of living and raising a family in a suburban setting versus a rural one?

10.Which character do you identify with the most? Which the least? Who is your favorite?

11.Is Sarah's mother's response to Nate's death understandable or unreasonable?

12.What did Sarah miss out on by having such a withdrawn mother? If her mother had been more available, do you think Sarah would be as high achieving?

13.Sarah's trauma gives her a chance to reconnect with her estranged mother. Why is it so hard for Sarah to forgive her mother?

14.Can working mothers really have it all—a successful career, well-adjusted children, a great marriage, a sense of well-being, and personal happiness? Or is that a myth? Does something always have to give?

15.Sarah's work/life balance before her disability is weighted toward work, whereas after it is weighted toward her family. How would you categorize your own work-life balance? Does Left Neglected make you reconsider any of your career decisions?

16.The back cover states that the novel is "about what we ignore and neglect in ourselves, in our families, and in the world around us." What do you think you are neglecting in your life? Yourself? Your relationships? Your home? Your job?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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