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Every Note Played

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Every Note Played

March 2018

More than two decades ago, a friend told me that his dad had ALS. I still remember his abject sadness as he described how his father was losing functionality. Then, a couple of years ago, our friend, Peter, was diagnosed. He was living in Florida at the time, and my husband and I thought we would fly down to see him in April. It was a well-laid plan, but he passed away in March, stunning both of us. Also, a couple of years ago, I read UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE: My Year of Living with Joy, a memoir by Susan Spencer-Wendel, who had ALS and was determined to live every day. That, too, was a Bets On selection.

All this to say that when I read Lisa Genova’s latest novel, which looks at the world of ALS, I was not coming to the subject of this book as a novice. That said, I knew that in Lisa’s hands, it would be deftly crafted and addressed. And indeed it was.

In EVERY NOTE PLAYED, Richard is a classical concert pianist. Music, travel, playing the piano and the adoration of the audiences who flock to see him fuel his life. Thus, when the illness begins to manifest with his losing feeling in his arms, it’s a crushing blow. He tries to hide what’s going on, but as the disease advances rapidly, this plan fails.

He’s also been through a bitter divorce. Richard is one really self-centered narcissist, and his relationships are frosty and fraught. But as his body begins to fail him, he realizes that he needs round-the-clock help, and the person who is there for him is his ex-wife, Karina, who also was a pianist.

While she explores the ravaging illness that ALS is, Lisa also provides a look into the world of jazz and classical music. I learned a lot about the world of music, and saw the toll that travel and attention can take on two people in even the best of times. It is a really well-written story of a man and a woman that took me inside their marriage and explored what tore it apart for them before the disease ravaged their world as they know it. The strain is everywhere, and while they try to keep this all at bay for their daughter, their world is just too fragile and brittle for that to occur.

Lisa is brilliant in educating me about complicated neurological diseases, and here, once again, she struck just the right chord (pun intended) in the course of delivering a very strong story. EVERY NOTE PLAYED would make for a wonderful discussion for book groups.

Every Note Played
by Lisa Genova

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
  • ISBN-10: 147671780X
  • ISBN-13: 9781476717807