Every Note Playedby Lisa Genova Published 20 Mar 2018
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From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful 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.
Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.
"Every Note Played" Reviews
His neurons are dying, and the muscles they feed are literally starving for input. Every twitch is a muscle stammering, gasping, begging to be saved. They can't be saved.
I don't know what it is that makes these, um... medical dramas(?) of Genova's so damn compelling. Some writers just seem to have that certain way with words that draws you into the story and the characters' lives. It doesn't matter that her books aren't action-packed; they are pageturners anyway.
Every Note Played sees a famous and extremely talented pianist developing ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease). Richard has dedicated his entire life to the piano and music. It is who he is on a deep, cellular level. In fact, he has sacrificed many other areas of his life to focus on his career playing with various orchestras around the world. When his precious hands start to fail him, he is forced to look at what's left of his life.
It is obvious that the author is a neuroscientist. She knows the details of the disease and takes us through the grueling daily challenges of living with ALS that most of us probably never thought about. She dispels myths surrounding the disease - such as that ALS sufferers tend to live a long time, like Stephen Hawking. Hawking has lived an abnormally long time with the disease, and most people die within a few years of diagnosis. There is one pitiful treatment option available. There is no cure.
Genova also creates some really interesting character dynamics. There's no pity party for Richard. In fact, the perspective of the novel moves between Richard and that of his ex-wife Karina, and we discover that Richard has kinda been an asshole for a lot of his life. Arrogant. Self-absorbed. And yet this works really well and feels less manipulative than if Richard had been a saint.
You might think we would have less sympathy for a man like this, and yet there is something deeply sad about it. To see this proud, arrogant man dress up in his tux, alone in his apartment, and play left-handed until he can play no more is hard to witness. In both this book and Still Alice, Genova explores what it means to experience an ultimate loss of self - an intelligent woman losing her memories, a pianist losing use of his hands - and how a person must live with this.
Her books are often sad books, but they feel refreshingly free of manipulation. They are not tear-jerkers that set out to make us cry. She simply creates interesting characters in terrible situations and explores how they deal with them. I like this. I equally like that she chose to focus on an unusual dynamic - that between a divorced middle-aged couple who really dislike each other. The relationship between Richard and Karina is as fascinating as everything else.
Also, I was surprised how the author pulled me into the music part of the story. I’m not a musical person, to be honest. I love listening to all kinds of music, but I often feel cold when authors describe the feeling of being extremely passionate about playing an instrument and getting lost in the notes. That’s not something I’ve ever really understood and if you played me a note I couldn't even hazard a guess if it was ABCDEF or G, so books about music are usually boring to me. But the passion for music here really worked. The intoxicating feeling of the music as Richard uses it to escape reality is a good source of relief between the progressions of the disease.
In short, Every Note Played is an unputdownable character portrait that informs about ALS on a painfully human level.
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Thanks to NetGalley, Simon& Shuster Canada, Lisa Genova, and all those who shared thier personal ALS journey in the makings of this book.
First, I have to stop crying. This is perhaps the most powerful book Lisa Genova has written since Still Alice. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis( ALS ) is the medical storyline brought to the surface in this contemporary family drama. Richard and Karin are the divorced couple that reluctantly find it becoming part of their world. Both Richard and Karin are carrying a lot of anger and hurt from their rocky road of a marriage, but when Karin becomes the default caregiver for Richard- both must confront the past. As well, the couple's only daughter, Grace, has a rocky relationship with her father and Lisa Genova skillfully weaves this into the story as well.
Lisa Genova is the master storyteller of our era, bringing very difficult diseases( Alzheimer's, Huntington's and ALS) to the attention of her readers. She does it the hard way too! Like her other books, we are told the story not just from the spouse's point of view, but the patient himself. That alone can be a daunting task, but LG does it with the utmost care and respect.
I am beyond excited to talk about this book with my fellow readers! But they might have to bring their own Kleenex box!
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.
Thanks to Netgalley for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my rating.
DNF at 57% – 2/5
I’m starting off with this: It’s not a bad book. I’m sure I would have given it two stars if I read it to the end. But, it was just a not for me book.
The focus was on a divorced couple. The wife, Karina, is a natural caretaker. The husband, Richard, is a world-renowned piano player (who is also an ass). Richard gets diagnosed with ALS. They have a lot of bad blood between them. He’s losing his ability to do what he loves, just as she’s failing to become her own person after a divorce.
And that’s it. I got over 50% into the book and that’s all that happened. Things happened between them in the past that caused their feelings, but it was only hinted at. Nothing was discussed.
While this is written beautifully — both the lyrical prose about their relationship and the frank picture of what’s happening to Richard — but it was boring. I got bored of reading the same sentences structured in different ways.
It just didn’t work for me.
NETGALLEY APPROVED ME
HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BOOK???
Mother winner by Lisa Genova. From the outset, the book is about ALS but it’s also about forgiving, living, and grieving before death. Very well written, as usual.
What an emotional story, wow (she says as she’s still drying tears and cleaning up the tissues...)
Diving into any Lisa Genova novel is always going to lead you on a heart wrenching journey that is worth the rollercoaster of emotions your feelings will go through. One thing that set Every Note Played aside from other Genova novels is that this novel begins with the character knowing their diagnosis from the beginning, whereas in many of her other novels, the main character slowly exhibits symptoms and deteriorates before acknowledging and receiving a diagnosis.
Richard is such an unlikeable character from page one. He’s a classical concert pianist who has earned a celebrity status in the music world and has the ego to go with it. He has isolated his ex-wife and only child and is more concerned about face and women than family. How are you supposed to have any sympathy for such a giant jerk even in the face of his ALS diagnosis, when he’s still such a seemingly awful person?! Well, Genova does it again! Incredibly moving story that will stay with me for quite some time.
Thank you to Gallery Threshold books for an advance copy of Every Note Played. All opinions are my own.
Richard, a world famous pianist is diagnosed with a career ending disease. We witness the rapid decline of a once confident artist into someone who depends upon others for even the smallest things. Loss is a powerful agent of change, and Richard's loss changes him as well as the people around him. Priorities and values shift with perspective, and knowing the ending doesn't make it any easier to witness. Beautifully written - This was one of the rare books that I had trouble putting down and kept my attention until I finished it.
Note: I was given a free ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.