Inside the O'Briens: A Novel
by Lisa Genova
New York: Gallery Books, 2015
Inside the O'Briens is not the type of book I usually review. Focusing on an Irish Catholic Boston family, there are passages in this book that are so anti-Catholic they made my blood boil. In addition, the f-word is used so often, it almost becomes part of the background of the novel. There is also lots of premarital sex going on (although only one semi-graphic depiction). So, why am I recommending it? Because at the end of the day, this is an incredibly powerful pro-life novel about the value of life at all its stages and in all its circumstances, even the ones that are most painful to imagine.
Lisa Genova is a Harvard educated neuroscientist best known for her novel, Still Alice, about a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. In "Inside the O'Briens," she paints a portrait of a Boston cop suffering from another disease, this one much less well-known, but no less devastating. Huntington's Disease, which I admit I had never heard of before reading this book, is a way of life for 37,000 people in the United States. It is a genetic disease which means that children of someone who have it have a 50% chance of developing the disease.
Inside the O'Briens focuses on the cop himself as he faces life with this disease, and on his youngest daughter who struggles with making the decision of whether to find out if she carries the gene. There are also three other children who play less of a role in the story, and the mother, a devout Catholic, who has her own struggles facing this new way of life.
This is a well-woven story that educates and makes you think at the same time. It would be a great book club choice that would foster much discussion. Genova is hoping to raise awareness and money for Huntington's research through this book.