Monday, April 6, 2015

(26)Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova


Joe O'Brien is an Irish-Catholic husband, father, and police officer.  He has spent his entire life in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.  He and his wife live in the house where he grew up and his four adult kids either live with him and Rosie or live in the apartments above their home. Family is important and they all make a point to be there for Sunday dinners.    As a police officer, Joe is well respected throughout his community and he although he is proud to wear the uniform he is counting down until he can retire from the force.  His life is derailed when Rosie suggest he see a doctor. His lack of focus, his volatile temper, and his jerky movements are getting to be too much to ignore.  The diagnosis of Huntington's Disease is crushing.  Joe has is forced to examine his life what he thought he knew to be true about his mother.  But even worse for Joe is the knowledge that each of his four children have a 50% chance of inheriting the fatal disease from him.  As the disease progresses Joe's four children are forced to decide if they want to do the DNA testing available to determine if they will get the disease that will kill their father.

Inside the O'Briens is one of those slow moving books that you don't realize is almost over until you look at the page number.  The author does an amazing job at setting the scene and giving you the history of Joe, Rosie, and their family.  You really feel like you know the O'Briens.  Not just their individual personalities, but the dynamics of the family.  Rosie is devout and hopes that her kids all marry good Irish folk from the neighborhood. JJ is the oldest and is married to a good girl from the neighborhood.  Meghan and Katie are both looking for the "right one",  but Katie is afraid to introduce her boyfriend, Felix to her family.  They might forget that he is black and a Protestant.  But they will never forgive that he is a Yankees fan. Meghan is a talented ballet dancer that has big plans for getting out of Boston, but doesn't know how to tell her parents that have never left the neighborhood they grew up in.  And Patrick is the baby of the family, bar-tending down at the local pub, and going home with a different girl every night. The O'Briens are a close-knit family and Joe's diagnosis has a major impact on all of them,  especially Joe.  There was a scene when Katie sits down with Joe and lays it on the line with him and you knew that the impact it had on him was life changing.   I was captivated by their story and how they all deal with the news that Huntington's Disease is going to rip through their family.

Bottom line -there is never any one thing that is the "main event" of the book, but much like Huntington's Disease itself,  Inside the O'Briens is slow and steady and packs quite a punch.

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I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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