Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Review of Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

** What it’s about **

I think some small part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life.  Every now and then, it would whisper, Sarah, please slow down.  You don’t need all this.

Sarah Nickerson has it all: the high-flying career, the loving family, the second home.  But does she have time to enjoy it? Too busy to pay attention, can she see what’s left neglected?

One fateful day, while driving to work, Sarah looks away from the road for one second too long.  In the blink of an eye, her chaotic life comes to a screeching halt.  In the wake of a devastating accident, it’s time for her to choose:

What does she really want?

** What I thought **

When I first picked up this book and read the back, I was a little wary as I started to read.  It reminded me of If I stay (Gayle Forman) and Afterwards (Rosamund Lupton); both books which focus on out-of-body experiences following some sort of accident.  The blurb of this book indicates that this book will follow in their wake, yet it doesn’t.  It stands totally aside; proud and unique.

The book starts off following our main character, Sarah Nickerson, 37, high-flying, career woman as she juggles her everyday life of family (3 young children) and work.  Then one day, her never-ending multi-tasking results in a car accident.  Whilst this isn’t fatal, she suffers a brain injury which results in Left Neglect, a real-life neurological condition which will change her life forever.

The title Left Neglected is very clever.  The blurb gives no indication of the content of the book, and as very few people are aware of the neurological syndrome (also known as unilateral neglect or hemispatial neglect), the reader is left to discover this through Sarah.  Yet this book isn’t just about the condition Sarah suffers from, it’s about the things in life that have been left neglected whilst she pursues her career.  It also brings Sarah and her mother back together.  Will Left Neglect make her finally realise what she’s forgotten about and will she think she’s been missing out or will she rush back to her old life as soon as possible?

This book is a haunting reminder that things can change in an instant.  It’s certainly stuck with me – if I’m ever tempted to glance at my phone or press a little harder on the accelerator, this book comes back to me; it says “Is it worth it?  Whatever it is can wait, wherever you’re going can wait a few extra minutes.”  This book makes you realise what we take for granted every day.  The only time we really tell ourselves to “look left, look right” is when we’re crossing the road – imagine having to remind yourself that every minute of every day, and even then not being able to trust yourself that you’re actually seeing what is there, and not just what your brain perceives to be.

There aren’t any massive cliff hangers, but Lisa Genova doesn’t need them to keep you reading.  Her writing style does this all by itself.  It isn’t all doom and gloom; it’s certainly an eye-opener but it’s packed with other parts of family life as well.  One of my favourite bits of the book is when Sarah and her son Charlie are doing their homework together (look out for it). 

I haven’t read Still Alice so cannot compare this to Genova’s previous novel, but after reading Left Neglected, I’ll certainly be getting hold of a copy of Still Alice.  If I had to pick up on anything in this book, it’d be that the ending felt perhaps a little rushed in terms of Sarah’s mum.  Yet overall, it's a great read packed with a life lesson for us all.


  1. This is on my wishlist, great review. Still Alice is a fantastic read

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  2. Lovely review! I love the cover, too - which perhaps indicates the fragility of life?


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