Inside the O'Briens
by Lisa Genova
Published: 4/7/15 by Gallery Books
3.5 out of 5 stars
I have read all of Lisa Genova's novels, with Still Alice being my favorite by far. Genova has a talent for shedding light on brain diseases and conditions through fictional stories. While her writing is not the most beautiful or prolific, she is always able to bring a human side to the science behind the disease.
In Inside the O'Briens, Joe O'Brien is a Boston cop who receives the devastating news that he has Huntington's Disease. Huntington's is a genetic disease with no cure and no treatment and a guaranteed death sentence. Each of Joe's grown children have a 50/50 chance of having the disease themselves. This story explores how Joe and his wife deal with the disease as it progresses, as well as how his children deal with their dad's disease and the possibility that they may face the same fate.
I recently read another novel about Huntington's disease, Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer. In my review of Five Days Left, I commented that the main character Mara reminded me a lot of Alice from Lisa Genova's Still Alice. So it was kind of ironic to read this book written by Lisa Genova and also about Huntington's disease. Because I had read the other book, I was familiar with the symptoms of the disease. So Inside the O'Briens was not quite as enlightening as some of Genova's other novels.
Inside the O'Briens is told from the perspective of Joe and his daughter Katie. While I appreciated hearing from the daughter's perspective, I really didn't think Katie was a great character. I definitely enjoyed Joe's portions of the story more. It was interesting to see how the physical symptoms played such a big role in his occupation and identity as a tough city cop.
There were times when the story felt more like a research lecture than a novel. I think that is one issue I have with Genova's style. It seems like she finds a disease and then comes up with a story and characters that will help to teach about the disease. While I do enjoy being able to learn more through her stories, I feel like the actual plot and characters suffer from feeling a little contrived.
In summary, I would recommend this book to most people. While not my favorite novel by Genova, it is an interesting look at a fascinating and terrifying disease and how it affects one family.