Pick of the Week: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

lisagenovaIf you had a 50-50 chance of inheriting a disease that was guaranteed to debilitate and eventually kill you, would you want to know? That heavy question faces the four O’Brien adult children in Lisa Genova’s new novel about family, happiness, love and choices.

Genova, a neuroscientist, broke out as a novelist with her debut, Still Alice, which explores the ramification of Alzheimer’s disease. The book was turned into a movie last year and Julianne Moore won an Oscar for best actress for her portrayal of Alice.

Inside the O’Briens tackles Huntington’s, another brutal neurological insidetheobriensdisease that has no cure. The main character is Joe, a police officer and the patriarch of an Irish American family in Boston. He and his doting wife, Rose, live in a big house shared by their four grown children. When Joe starts having trouble walking at 43, he thinks it’s from his bad knee. His doctor refers him to a specialist, who diagnoses Huntington’s disease. Joe is most upset when he is told that all four of his children have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the fatal disease.

Genova tackles these heavy issues with writing that is profound and compelling and characters who are real and likeable. I loved the O’Briens and their devotion to their family, including the mandatory Sunday dinners where the meat is cooked beyond recognition. Their story is moving and beautiful. I couldn’t put it down.

–Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org

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