#BookReview: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Reviewer: Annie

inside the obriensI received a review copy


From the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice Lisa Genova comes a powerful and transcendent new novel about a family struggling with the impact of Huntington’s disease.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.


WOW!  Lisa Genova is a genius!  My Emotions ran high when you read this story.  It is a truly haunting, gut-wrenching story of a family you will fall in love with, and never forget.  As I write this review, I find that my heart is still saddened by the story and the reality of Huntington’s Disease (HD).  An illness I never heard of.  An unthinkable illness.  I fatal illness.  An illness that finally has a voice!

Lisa Genova truly got “inside” the minds of the six members of the O’Brien family in a hauntingly beautiful way.  It was often startling how well she captured the daunting thoughts of each characters mind after the father’s diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease.

We are introduced to the O’Briens, your typical Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe and Rosie are the parents of four children in their 20’s (JJ, Katie, Meghan and Patrick).  They all live together in a 3-story house in the Charlestown suburb of Boston.  Joe is a Boston police officer missing out on a lot of events and holidays with his family due to his job.  Because of this, he is often thinking about with the time he will be able to spend with his family once he is retired, but all of that changes in an instant.

Joe and Rosie are stunned when Joe is diagnosed with HD.  I felt the same pang of shock he and Rosie did when the doctor told them he had HD.

I could not imagine the pain someone would feel in his shoes, but I have to say that Lisa Genova tells you what is on his mind, and that of every O’Brien in a truly riveting way…You will feel as if you are an O’Brien.

This story revolves around Joe’s diagnosis of HD and all that happens in the wake of it.   Each family member deals with the diagnosis differently, and we are brought in to the minds of each person’s reality.

I often had to remind myself that this was a work of fiction, because it was so real.  So riveting.

This story will grab you by the heart and not let go, even after you put the book down.

A tear is running down my cheek.  I am grateful for my healthy family.


5 Stars

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