Inside the O’briens. Finished 9-21-18, 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2015
Unabridged audio read by Skip Sudduth. 9 discs.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate. from Goodreads
This grabbed me from the get go. I’m a mom in my 40’s and can’t even imagine the horror of not only Joe but of his wife as they wait to find out what becomes of their children and grandchildren. I learned a lot about Huntington’s disease and the book was excellent in the way that it showed how it impacted the whole family, and it was a big brood! The story flitted between Joe and his youngest daughter Katie and while I liked both of those storylines I would have liked to have heard a bit more from the other kids and their stories, especially about the troubled brother. As much as I liked the book it was a downer and I hated the end. I’m sure others are fine with it, but it felt like a cop out to me.
Lisa Genova is gifted at taking a medical diagnosis and compelling us to read, even when it’s hard. I loved Still Alice, but didn’t love this one as much. But Joe has stuck with me and it’s been two months so that’s saying something.