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Readers' Comments for INSIDE THE O'BRIENS

In February, a select group of readers who participated in one of our Special Contests won copies of INSIDE THE O'BRIENS by Lisa Genova. Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this book... but watch out for SPOILERS!

Martha B. of Minneapolis, MN
The more I read of INSIDE THE O’BRIENS, the harder it was to put down. This is a compelling story of a policeman and his family's struggles to cope with his diagnosis of Huntington's disease, his deterioration physically and mentally, and the impact on the heredity of his children and their descendants. Of course, I had heard of HD and its likelihood of being passed on to children and their children... on and on. This novel presents an intimate look at the complications HD brings to everyday life and planning for the future. In this instance, the policeman had no idea that the reason for his mother's death when he was a young boy was HD. He had no idea his DNA included this terrible condition. The devastating diagnosis does not come with solutions. The author presents the gut-wrenching effect through the reactions of Joe, his family, and hid friends. The details of a uniformed policeman's work and life seem quite authentic. The story of Joe and Rosie, who married at age 19, comes across as true. They love each other and their four children, they work hard, and strive to support family ties, in spite of Joe's long work hours and limited income. They are also strongly rooted to their community in Charlestown, their Catholic faith, Irish roots, and the Boston Red Sox. They weren't aware of this disease until it presented itself in Joe. This book explores so many aspects of this awful disease. It also grabs the reader and Huntington's disease becomes "up close and personal" through the lives of the O'Briens. Another successful expose of an insidious disease by Lisa Genova. The story hit both my brain and my heart. Kudos to the author!


Bonnie K. of Sacramento, CA

Lisa Genova does it again. I learn so much from reading her books. INSIDE THE O’BRIENS gives a compassionate look at life with Huntington's disease. It explores what one goes through as the disease worsens and also looks at what the children of one affected by Huntington's disease may have to experience. Does knowing what your future may hold help, or is it better not knowing? This book gives you a glimpse of the different ways to approach the possibility of inheriting the disease. I really got drawn into the life of the O'Briens, and felt their angst, but also the love for each other and the strength to live life the best way one can live it.


Joanne O. of Cincinnati, OH

Thank you for the opportunity to read Lisa's latest book. She has been one of my favorite authors since first reading STILL ALICE. This story grips you from the very beginning and keeps you there to the end. Being Catholic and married to an Irishman, I could see immediately the Irish Pride that Joe held in his heart. I had to laugh at the fact the Rosie never could cook anything well because being Italian, my husband teases me that he married me because I could cook. I did not know anything about Huntington’s disease when I started this book, and now I feel such a compassion for those families dealing with this fatal disease. I especially found Katie's character both fascinating and exhausting, in that she could not make any decisions and was frozen by her thoughts. We all do that about things we are frightened about. Rosie was a complex character, and I would have loved to hear more of her thoughts as the wife of a man with HD.


Bonnie L. of Winchester, NH

INSIDE THE O’BRIENS was excellent, as was STILL ALICE. Lisa Genova proves a master writer with this book. It was as if you were there. Every bit of it felt true, from the Boston police department to the friends and family of first generation Irish Catholics. Her research into Huntington’s disease was stellar, and the way she documented the illness’s effects on the family dynamics --- the impact on the father as a husband, father and a Boston police officer; the impact on his adult children --- was so sensitively covered. This was powerful, gut-wrenching, true to life literature. It was so real you felt it in your gut! Her use of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway and the Boston Marathon bombing made it almost nonfiction, it was so well depicted.


Dorothy N. of Millstone, NJ

I finished this book several days ago and since then have thought of little else. The storyline and the characters are so powerful and there is so much to contemplate.

Lisa Genova is a very talented author who always manages to take a tough subject matter and make it easily understandable to everyday folks. This is a real gift.

In her latest book, INSIDE THE O'BRIENS, we are brought into the lives of a close Irish Catholic family. The father, Joe, is a Boston cop who has been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition that can be passed down genetically. There is no cure.

Genova does a spectacular job of educating about this disease and in showing the emotional distress suffered by the entire family. The four adult children in the story must face the knowledge that they may also develop this disease and further must decide whether to undergo genetic testing that would give them the answer. The reader becomes very engaged in the conflict: if it were you, would you want to know?

The author has given us much to think about and powerful characters with which to tell the story. I loved this book!


Bonnie W. of Brush Prairie, WA

I read it right away and really liked it. This is the first book by this author that I have read, and I am anxious to read more. It made me feel as if I were a part of this family, feeling their pain as they dealt with such an uncertain future. Not only that: I learned so much about this horrible disease and how it can tear a family apart. Thanks so much for giving me the chance to read and enjoy this great gook. I have recommended it to every reader I know.


Beverly S. of Chesterton, IN

INSIDE THE O’BRIENSintroduces us to a family dealing with early onset Huntington’s disease. I did not know much about this debilitating disease. Just as Lisa Genova took us inside a family dealing with the onset of Alzheimer's disease, now you will feel like you are a member of the O'Brien family. You will laugh with them and cry with them as they struggle daily to learn about their future facing Huntington's disease.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is from the father, Joe, who is the first person in the family to be diagnosed. He is at the hospital meeting his first grandson just after he is born, and is sitting with his son JJ. Joe says "This is only the beginning, JJ." Proof that even a life cursed with Huntington's can be magnificent.


Debra R. of Portland, OR

I greatly enjoyed the book... the characters were well-drawn and very real, as were the depictions of Boston, the society and culture of a police force, and especially the area of Charlestown. Ms. Genova's deft ability to incorporate quite a bit of medical science and terminology keeps the novel a true novel, written with lucidity, compassion, and great humanity. It never bogs down under the weight of knowledge, and yet teaches the reader so much. That's a real gift! 

[SPOILERS] My only quibbles: I found Rosie's near-immediate agreement to a divorce rather hard to believe, given her devout Catholic faith. I don't doubt that she'd have relented in the end, but it seemed much too "easy" for Joe to convince her. Similarly, I wish a bit more time had been given to all four kids' reactions and responses to the overwhelming news. I realize it was intentional to focus on Katie, and that was done so beautifully, but the other three seemed to get somewhat short shrift (especially Patrick and JJ), and made the story slightly less complete for me. [END SPOILERS.]

Quibbles aside, I loved the book overall and will gladly recommend it to friends and family. Thank you for the copy and for the opportunity to share my thoughts!


Mary A. of West Roxbury, MA

I just finished reading INSIDE THE O’BRIENS. I absolutely loved it. It was one of the best books I have read recently and I didn’t want it to end! I love all of Lisa Genova’s books and was not disappointed with this one. I live in Boston and have friends who live in Charlestown so I could picture everything that she was describing so accurately. It was such a great story that made you want to cry and at times I was laughing as well. My favorite part that made me laugh was when Joe walked into his house and all of Rosie’s Catholic figures were missing, and he thought they had been robbed. It definitely makes you think twice about passing judgment when you see someone on the street who may be acting strangely.