by Lisa Genova
Every Note Played is the latest novel from Lisa Genova, neuroscientist turned bestselling author of titles such as Still Alice and Love, Anthony, stories that deal with early onset Alzheimer’s and parental loss and grief. This latest gem goes inside ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as we follow the decline of Richard who has been recently diagnosed with the illness.
Richard is a renowned concert pianist and this diagnosis signals the end of his career and life as he knows it. His career defines him; it is his life, his reason for living. We meet Richard living with the loss of his right hand, the cancellation of his upcoming tour and his attempts at finding left-hand piano pieces. While mostly in denial about the progression of the disease, he knows it is only a matter of time before his left hand will also become paralyzed. As the disease moves through his body, he will have to come to grips with his loss of the piano, his livelihood and the ability to care for himself.
Karina is Richard’s ex-wife. It has been three years since Richard moved out, but she dwells on the past and has not moved on with her life. She blames Richard for the life she has, having given up on becoming a successful concert pianist in her own right, to support him in his career. She spends her days teaching piano and hiding behind the blame instead of pursuing her dream.
As Richard’s disease advances, Karina becomes his caregiver, eventually moving him back into their family home. Their sharing of the same home again brings up many of the past conflicts that neither of them has resolved. Richard’s deteriorating health becomes a ticking clock for Karina and Richard to reconcile the past before it is too late.
This story delves into the human side of ALS and how it affects those afflicted, not only the disease ridden Richard, but those around him who care for and about him. As a neuroscientist, Genova has a deep knowledge of the things she writes about. She creates real characters in real situations and does not gloss over the nasty bits. Whether you love them or hate them, the reader genuinely feels for the characters and is right there with them as they deal with their lot.