Huntington Disease (HD) is an inherited brain disorder that affects about 1 in 10,000 Americans. In this novel, Lisa Genova does a great job of using a fictional family, the O’Briens, to illustrate the impact that HD has on Joe O’Brien, a Boston police officer, as well as on his family. How will Joe cope with the disease? Will his wife of 26 years divorce him? Will his children get tested? Should they get tested, and if they do, how will that change the trajectory of their lives??
All of these questions and more are typical dilemmas that any person and family would have as HD stares them in the face. Since the HD gene is dominant, this gives the child of an HD parent a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. I particularly enjoyed how the author used the characters to highlight the ethical and practical issues around whether or not one chooses to be tested.
Have a read for yourself. Lisa Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, also wrote that great book Still Alice (also an Oscar-winning film starring Julianne Moore). In that novel, she takes us on the journey of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I really do love how she uses her expertise and combines it with fiction to educate her readers on difficult topics. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.