On My Shelf: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova


In Every Note Played, author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova pulls back the curtain on ALS. Heartbreaking and eye-opening, this novel tells the story of a family torn apart by divorce and brought back together in a not-so-traditional way.

Genova clearly had an inside look into ALS and its monstrous effects as she wrote. The details she includes draw the reader in and go almost too far. And I think that was intentional. The descriptions border uncomfortable and force you to see the things you wish were fiction.

Not only does Genova relate in detail the physical aspects of suffering from ALS but also the emotional effects on both the patient and the caregiver. The dynamics between Richard, Karina, and Grace are at times humorous, touching, and relatable. Genova uses musical imagery throughout the novel to represent these progressing relationships and changing perspectives — from bitterness to forgiveness and mental bondage to freedom.

I found it interesting that Genova created Grace without a love for music, intentionally separating her from her parents and stunting her development as a character in the sense that her growth could not be described in musical terms.

Although written with beautiful imagery and detail, I took a while to get comfortable with the way Genova writes in third-person present. I also found a few typos that distracted me from the story and the frequent use of expletives was distasteful in my opinion. But those are my only complaints; so in retrospect, Lisa Genova hit the nail on the head.

I surprised myself by not sobbing as I came to the end of this beautiful and devastating story. I was convicted regarding my own perspective on disabilities and how I can contribute to helping find a cure to ALS and conditions like it.

Genova writes with such personal touch and emotion. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from taboo details of physical illness as well as the emotional strain that results. I love how Genova continues to use her platform to inform and inspire change in her field of neuroscience. She accomplishes all this while reminding her reader to not take relationships for granted because life is short and reconciliation is worth the struggle.

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