Still Alice Summary and Study Guide

Lisa Genova

Still Alice

  • 54-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 25 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a former professor with both an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing
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Still Alice Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 54-page guide for “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 25 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Importance of Family and The Fluidity of Reality.

Plot Summary

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, tells the story of a Harvard cognitive psychology professor, Alice Howland, and her descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. When the novel opens, Alice is unaware of her disease; although she recognizes that she has become a touch more forgetful lately, she chalks this up to getting older and keeping a busy academic schedule. However, her lapses soon become worse, and a series of tests confirm that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s.

At the start of the novel, she is a beloved professor and an in-demand guest speaker; however, as the novel progresses, her performance in the classroom begins to slip, leading her to step aside the next academic year after a series of weak student evaluations. As her condition worsens, she struggles to hold onto anything she can, in particular her family and the little pleasures in life. While some relationships grow stronger, though, others grow weaker. By the end of the novel, she is no longer lucid and she can’t remember her husband or children, though she is still able to enjoy their company.

The novel is written from a close, non-participant point of view that focuses on Alice’s perspective, giving us her thoughts throughout. It could be said that the novel employs free indirect discourse, blurring the line between the narrator and Alice’s thoughts. The combination of these two leads to a narrative style that makes the reader question what is and is not real, as we often get the events of individual scenes from the perspective of a woman who is, herself, an unreliable source of information.

Similarly, the novel is divided into monthly chapters, until the final three. Within each chapter, the passage of time is unclear—at times, section breaks separate just minutes, while at other times, section breaks separate days. As the disease and the novel progress, time becomes increasingly abstract, and we understand only that the events in each chapter take place within a given month, probably in order, but with no real understanding of how they relate to one another. Further, the chapters generally become shorter, emphasizing moments in time rather than sustained narratives.

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