Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Joe O'Brien is a Boston cop whose stamina and methodical mind have seen him through decades policing the city streets. When he starts making uncharacteristic errors, he attributes them to stress until, finally, he agrees to see a doctor and is handed a terrifying diagnosis: Huntington's disease.

Not only is Joe's life changing beyond recognition, but each of his four grown children has a fifty-fifty chance of inheriting the disease. Observing her potential future play out in his escalating symptoms, his yoga teacher daughter Katie wrestles with how to make the most of the here and now, and connect with her dad, who is, inside, always an O'Brien.

Lisa Genova is a formulaic author - she takes a neurological disease and shines a light on it by putting it in to an authentic situation any one of us could face in our lifetime. Her stories are very much the kind where you walk in the shoes of the characters, taking everything in, questioning how you yourself would react if you ever were put in those heart breaking situations.

In Inside the O'Briens we meet Joe, a middle aged policeman who is seemingly getting on with life - happy in his career, his family, and just life in general. When given the diagnosis of Huntington's disease, Joe's whole world is turned upside down and he has some hard decisions to make, decisions he never imagined he'd ever have to encounter.

The diagnosis of Huntington's disease doesn't just affect Joe however; he has a wife and four grown up children who are making their own way in life - fireman JJ, dancer Meghan, yoga teacher Katie, and the wayward Patrick. Being that Huntington's is a genetic disease, the four children themselves also have a lot to consider, namely whether to go through the genetic testing which would give them an early insight as to whether they would also face Huntington's.

Overall, I really enjoyed the plot of Inside the O'Briens, particularly how the story wasn't just told from Joe's perspective, but how it affected his children and family as a whole - I liked that wider picture and how it gave fresh eyes on certain aspects of the plot. I also quite liked the pacing of the story; although there are jumps in time, it didn't feel haphazard or like we were missing out on any information.

Without saying too much, as I don't want to share spoilers, I would have liked the ending tweaked a little as I'm very much someone who likes closure in books - needing answers to all the questions raised. I totally see why the book ended as it did however, and it was nicely done.

Whilst I loved the plot of Inside the O'Briens, the characters are where I found fault. Previously I've found Lisa Genova to write characters so well and realistically, especially main characters, however in this particular book I felt like all the characters were cardboard cut outs, fitting specific stereotypes to a T.

Having said that, whilst the characters personalities fell a little flat, I did feel enough of a connection as a reader to be invested in the O'Brien family.

Lisa Genova is a wonderful writer, that's without a doubt, and the power and emotion put into her writing is breath taking. All of Genova's novels can be likened to a rollercoaster ride - you're gripped to your book the entire time whilst on this journey with the characters involved.

Whilst Inside the O'Briens isn't my favourite Lisa Genova book - Still Alice is holding strong on that one - I would still recommend this book to others, and would definitely return to it in the future.

If you're looking for a powerful read, the kind of story that stays with you a lifetime, then I'd highly recommend checking out any one of Lisa Genova's books.



  1. I loved Still Alice so much and have been meaning to read this since I read that one. Glad to hear it is good even if not as much as Still Alice. Great review!

    1. Still Alice is an amazing book!

      I've heard from a lot of people that Inside the O'Briens is their least favourite book by Lisa Genova, but I would still recommend giving it a read.

      Thank you!

  2. I enjoyed this one, too, Jade, but like you, my favorite was Still Alice. I also have the movie Still Alice.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog today.

    1. I really quite enjoyed the movie adaptation of Still Alice also... One of my favourite book to movie adaptations.

      Thanks for stopping by :-)

  3. Uggggh I must do my review of this one. The reason I didn't love it like her others was that I couldn't understand why the story felt mostly about the daughter doing yoga and Joe.

    Still Alice absolutely is the #1, it is actually top 5 of all times for me, it touched me, powerful.

    1. I agree, those were quite focal themes within the book... There was a lot more exploring that could have been done with the overall plot, however it was the characters that bothered me the most. I'd love to hear your full thoughts if you are able to fit in the review on Inside the O'Briens.

      I'm with you on Still Alice, definitely an all time favourite!


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