Book Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

by Bev Foster

Book Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

2018, Scout Press, New York

$27.98 hardcover, $12.74 Kindle, Amazon

In the competitive world of music performance, a disease like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) seems unusually cruel, especially for Richard, an accomplished concert pianist. At the pinnacle of his career, his technique deteriorates finger by finger, hand by hand, limb by limb by muscle weakness and paralysis.

Karina, a piano teacher and Richard’s embittered ex-wife suffers her own paralysis, brought on by fear, blame, and unforgiveness. As Richard is no longer able to live on his own, she becomes his reluctant caregiver. As the disease progresses, so does healing – the relational kind.

This is a story about choices and excuses. It is about forgiveness, compassionate care, and redemption. It is about reconciliation, finding peace, and inner healing.

Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Lisa Genova continues her unique style of scientific knowledge translation through fiction. Genova, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, helps readers learn about a disease from the perspective of the lived experience, not from the textbook. Her engaging mix of neuroscientific fact, the unfolding of disease (in this case ALS), believable contexts and characters, understanding of relationships and the human condition is compelling.

As a classically-trained pianist myself, this book resonated with me on many levels. A musician makes choices along the way. Fear, self-doubt, arrogance, pride, joy and elation are some of the emotional factors that underlie choices. Coming to terms with our own humanity away from the stage and spotlight can be a struggle. Motivation for career sacrifice for the sake of caring for others must be reconciled. Letting go of unforgiveness sets us free to find our authentic human destiny.

As a resource for music care, Every Note Played attempts to bring the worlds of elite musical performance, neurodegeneration, and the realities of family caregiving into one irresistible story. I highly recommend it.

Bev Foster, MA, BEd, BMus, ARCT, AMus, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Room 217 Foundation, an organization dedicated to music and care. She is an experienced musician and educator who speaks and writes extensively on the power of music, especially in life limiting situations.