Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hardcover Edition, 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary Medical Fiction
Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.
Part 1: From The Book Cover
From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful and heartbreaking exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.
An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.
Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.
He knows his left arm will go next.
Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.
When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.
As poignant and powerful as Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.
Part 2: Recommendation
I'm no concert pianist but having played the piano since I was 12 years old, I completely understand the fear of not being able to play the piano anymore or crochet or paint.
Every Note Played opens with Richard at his last concert and from there the story moves forward, between following Richard as ALS increasingly claims his body and Karina's life, interspersed with back flashes from when they were both at Curtis. The pacing of the story has a meandering, kind of exploratory feel to it when it comes to Richard's and Karina's thoughts of both the past and what lies ahead. There's no surviving ALS and the readers know that Richard is not going to get any better but despite this grim reality, I couldn't drum up enough sympathy for Richard knowing he's been a horrible husband to Karina and a very absent father to his only child, Grace. The true beauty of this book lies in how Karina, Grace and Richard find the ability to forgive one another through the difficulties of living with ALS and later on, the freedom to finally move on and pursue your dreams.
I really appreciate the amount of work that the author, Lisa Genova, put into this book and it showed especially through Richard's struggles with ALS. It's like you, the reader, is right there in the den in Richard's body or in Karina's or in Bill's. Lisa Genova successfully showed and with great detail exactly what ALS is all about. Because I couldn't put down this amazing read, I had a nightmare about being paralyzed and that it started with a tendonitis-like pain in my left thumb, which in real life, I was experiencing pain in my left thumb when I stretched it out and away from my hand. The pain in my left thumb is gone now after 2 days of not using my thumb to left click on the track pad of my work computer, thank God it wasn't anything serious.
In conclusion, if you want to know more about ALS without having to read lengthy medical texts, with excellent, well-developed characters, this is the book for you.