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“Left Neglected” is the second accomplished novel by Lisa Genova, a Harvard Ph.D. in neurosciences. Through fiction, the novel addresses a real neurological brain injury called “Left Neglect.”
Sarah is the successful young vice president of a consulting company, happily married with three children and living in an affluent suburb of Boston. Her life is busy, but Sarah thrives on competition and deadlines. She seems to have it all until a traumatic injury to the right side of her head leaves her with a deficit and changes everything. When she looks around a room, she is certain she sees everything. She is not blind, yet her brain does not detect the left side of any room or her body, or the left page of a book. She has a syndrome called “Left Neglect,” which makes her old life come to a halt.
This story is told with much humor and the writing style is beautiful. Even though Sarah’s injury is traumatic and life-changing, it is not life-threatening. Aside from the one deficit, all her mental capacities remain intact. With therapy, many patients with Left Neglect recover partially and sometimes even fully. With Sarah’s old drive to succeed, she too starts out on the road to recovery.
The novel has its funny moments. For example, when her mother (who has never had much to do with her daughter’s life) shows up, Sarah tells her to stand over by the window on her left side – where her mother is erased.
As Sarah begins to learn things all over again, the reader learns along with her. “Left Neglected” is fascinating, upbeat and heart-warming, providing many insights about a real neuropsychological condition.