Frustrating, heartbreaking, and eye opening, Lisa Genova brings us Inside the O’Briens, a story about the impact of Huntington’s disease. Genova, the author of the award-winning novel Still Alice, has an incredible talent in her ability to personalize terrible illnesses and create stories that strike a chord with readers.
The O’Brien’s, an Irish Catholic family, are from Boston, Massachusetts. Joe O’Brien, father of the family, is a tough cop with a knack for swearing who learns that Huntington’s disease (HD) is the cause behind his jerky movements and mood swings. HD is a lethal neurodegenerative disease without a cure and is passed down genetically, meaning that Joe’s children each have a 50% chance of testing positive as well.
The story is told from two perspectives, from Joe and from one of his daughters, Katie. Through Joe’s eyes we see the devastation of the disease and the terrible guilt he feels for possibly passing it down to his children. Katie, Joe’s youngest daughter, struggles with the decision of whether to take a test to determine her HD status. That decision weighs very heavily on her and causes her to put her life on pause because she feels unable to move forward. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Katie:
“Everything she’s ever done has been in preparation for her real life, and she’s itching to get started.”
I admire Lisa Genova for her incredible storytelling abilities and for raising awareness for a destructive disease. An informative, engaging, and heart wrenching book, I absolutely recommend Inside the O’Briens!