Saturday, September 10, 2011

Left Neglected

Today I finished Lisa Genova's Left Neglected, the same author that wrote Still Alice. You may think the title has something to do with someone being left behind, or neglected, but this is not the case. It tells the story of a do-it-all career-focused mother that gets in an accident while on her cell phone, and ends up with damage on the right side of her brain. This causes a condition that I had never heard of called "Left Neglect" - the brain basically does not recognize anything left - ie left side of the body, left side of the visual field, etc - so the character's whole world is viewed as only things on the right.

"Left" is just not there.

A passage I find interesting to illustrate this is:

"It's early in the morning, before breakfast, before any of the therapists have started working on me, probably even before the kids have gotten dressed at home. And Bob is here.

"Can you see me now?" asks Bob. I see the prison, the window, the visitor's chair, the TV.

"No," I say.

"Turn your head."

I turn my head. I see the prison.

"No, the other way."

"There is no other way."

"Yes there is. Turn your head to the left. I'm standing over here."

I close my eyes and imagine Bob standing. In my mind's eye, he's wearing a black, long-sleeve, crewneck tee and jeans, even though he never wears jeans to work. He's got his arms folded, and he hasn't shaved. I open my eyes and turn my head. I see the prison.

"I can't."

"Yes you can, it's simple."

"It's not."

"I don't understand why you can't just turn your head."

"I did."

"To the left."

"There is no left."

I hear him sigh in frustration.

"Honey, tell me everything you see in here," I say.

"You, the bed, the window, the chair, the table, the flowers, the cards, the pictures of me and the kids, the bathroom, the door, the television."

"Is that everything?"

"Pretty much."

"Okay, now what if I told you that everything you see is only half of everything that's really here? What if I told you to turn your head and look at the other half? Where would you look?"

He doesn't say anything. I wait. I imagine Bob standing in his tee-shirt and jeans, searching.

"I don't know," he says.


Definitely worth a read, I give it 3 out of 5 stars - something irks me about an author who doesn't really suffer from a condition herself and tries to tell the story - a little presumptive maybe, no matter how much reasearch she did. Still, it did raise my awareness to the issue.

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