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
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!
Lisa Geneva’s novels are purposely didactic, in the sense that she uses her fiction to teach. In her case, she strives to teach her audience about medical conditions and illnesses. For example, she’s written about Alzheimers (Still Alice) and autism (Love Anthony). Every Note Played focuses on ALS or motor neurone disease.
I have found Geneva’s books uneven as fiction. Still Alice blew me away, but some books felt like the didacticism overtook the story. Every Note Played didn’t blow me away, but it’s definitely one of Genova’s strong books in my view. Richard Evans is a forty five year old concert pianist when he is diagnosed with ALS. Out of necessity, his ex-wife Karina becomes his caregiver. The book is fairly short and Genova does not dawdle on the progress of the disease. Rather the story moves forward in robust increments, showing the brutal rapid devastation caused by ALS.
Besides the story of the disease, Genova does a good job with Richard and Karina. As Richard’s disease slowly traps him in an increasingly uncooperative body, she shows how people can trap themselves in their own thought patterns. Karina helps Richard out of a sense of duty and he accepts her help because of necessity, but there is nothing sweet or easy about this. There is some reckoning at the end, but Genova does not lapse into sentimentality. Much remains unsaid and regretted. Sad but realistic.
As I write this, I’ve just found out that Stephen Hawking died today. He had ALS. The course of his illness was unusual. Most people with ALS die much younger and most do not continue to live brilliant productive lives. Genova does a good job of highlighting this brutal disease with unsentimental humanity.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Every Note Played
MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
PUBLISHER Gallery/Scout Press
PUBLISHED March 20, 2018
An emotional profound chronicle of the terrifying effects of ALS disease and the opportunity for redemption it brought to one family.
Richard Evans loves the attention and applause when he plays. He’s an accomplished classical concert pianist and has played in the most famous concert halls all over the world. His fingers are finely calibrated instruments that dance across keys, making music come alive. But now Richard has ALS and his right arm is paralyzed, his left is not far behind. Karina, his forty-five year-old ex-wife is also paralyzed, paralyzed by excuses and fear, and stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, having given up her dreams of a jazz pianist long ago. She’s despises Richard and blames him for their failed marriage and her lost career. As Richard’s ALS progresses and he is no longer able to live on his on, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker.
“He counts five other people close enough to hear him if he yells, but they might as will be in Timbuktu because he’ll never asked any of these strangers for help. And he’ll never ask his father or brothers in New Hampshire or his daughter in Chicago. And he can’t ask Trevor in New York or his medical team at Mass General or even Bill, who is somewhere with his next client. He is alone in the Public Garden. He’s alone in his home, He’s alone in his ALS. And he’s suddenly, overwhelmingly terrified.”
Every Note Played is about much more than ALS. It is about taking something as horrific as ALS, and using it to make amends, to set things straight and to apologize for all the hurt Richard and Karina have caused each other, before it’s to late. Basically it’s about forgiveness. The feelings and emotions brought out in the story were striking and the character development was superb. Lisa Genova’s writing is amazingly lyrical, much like the beautiful Schumann’s Fantasie in C Major that Richard played at Carnegie Hall. Genova derived her vivid descriptions of Richard’s symptoms and her understanding of the disease and its progression directly from several very dear friends with ALS. Similar to her 2009 book Still Alice, and her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, for her, it’s personal. That is precisely what makes Every Note Played one of the best books of 2018.
Thanks to Netgalley, Gallery/Scout Press and Lisa Genova for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
“Every note played is a life and a death. “
Wow!! EVERY NOTE PLAYED was an absolutely phenomenal book and it was quickly placed into my 2018 favourite reads shelf!
EVERY NOTE PLAYED by LISA GENOVA is a deeply moving, sad, and an absolutely fantastic novel that had me totally emotionally engaged and interested throughout the entire book. I was totally immersed in this story making it extremely hard for me to put down.
LISA GENOVA delivers an empowering and beautifully written story here with an extremely enthralling storyline that was easy to understand and follow. The story is told in two different perspectives from Richard’s point of view who is a world-renowned concert pianist living with ALS and his ex-wife’s, Karina his caretaker. I was totally in awe with what I learned about ALS, the characters courage throughout this book and the familial dynamics between the characters.
To sum it all up it was an interesting, powerful, unforgettable, emotional, and an enjoyable read with a very touching, heart-wrenching, and bittersweet ending. Would highly recommend!!
Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Lisa Genova for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. It was an absolute pleasure!!!
Review written and posted on our themed book blog:
Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading
Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Where I live I am surrounded by Coulees!
To me there is no doubt that the main “character” in this book is ALS. I had watched someone, from a distance, at the Y where I belong go from being a Navy Seal to losing everything. It was terrifying just from the little that I saw every few weeks.
Richard is not a likable character. He has led a selfish life centered around his career as a concert pianist. He distanced himself from his parents and brothers, was never present for his daughter Grace and moved the family to Boston. His wife Karina gave up her Jazz piano career as there were not a jazz movement in Boston. Then she had Grace and centered her life on her.
When Richard first hears his diagnosis he is in denial, as I guess most people would be. He is convinced that somehow the disease will not progress in him. When his arm and hand begin to stop working and he can no longer play the piano, the awful weight of this disease is finally apparent to him.
The novel is told from Richard’s point of view and Karina’s. They have both hurt each other, Karina denied Richard more children without his knowing and blamed him for her stymied career. Richard was selfish, unfaithful and never encouraged Karina’s career.
This book is about ALS and we are informed in very descriptive, sometimes scary language which at times is hard to read. This book is also about forgiveness, redemption and telling those you love how you really feel.
The writing is very good, sometimes too technical and unfortunately the only glimpse of hope comes in the author’s notes “about the same time that I finished the final draft of this book, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of ALS. Radicava will become available by prescription to patients in August 2017, after this book goes to press” “In a trial in Japan Radicava slowed the decline in physical symptoms by 33%”.
I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss, thank you.
Resubmitting my review because I would like my Facebook friends to share it :)
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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