Lisa Genova‘s second novel, “Left Neglected” is the fictional story of a young woman who experiences a severe brain injury after a car accident that resulted from her taking her eyes off the road to search for her cell phone. Eight days after the accident, Sarah Nickerson wakes up in a hospital, forever changed.
Sarah Nickerson is a 37-year old graduate of Middlebury and the Harvard Business School. She is also a mother of three young children, Lucy, Charlie, and Linus (as in Peanuts) and the wife of Bob, a fellow Harvard Business School graduate. As Vice President of an international consulting firm on the par of McKinsey or Bain, she logs 70-80 weeks on the job neglecting herself, her kids, and her marriage. Sarah is trying to have it all but hasn’t realized she can’t have it all because there are not enough hours in a day for a high-powered well-paying job, a husband, three young children, and herself. She’s 25 pounds overweight, sleep deprived, constantly rushing around, and not having sex with her husband but she has a job she loves, a house in the Boston suburb that she has coveted, and a Vermont ski house for weekends (when she can get away). The cell phone is glued to Sarah’s ear and her inability to stop multitasking leads to an accident that changes her life.
“Left Neglected” refers to a condition that leaves a person completely unaware of the left side of the body and the world around them, as a result of an injury to the right side of the brain. The un-awareness is so complete that the victim doesn’t realize the brain is not recognizing what the eye is seeing and this injury has an enormous impact on day-to-day living. Lisa Genova, who holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard does a masterful job of taking a complicated brain condition and explaining the injury and its implications in an easily understood manner.
The story unfolds with Sarah’s life post-accident when she must accept her limitations while at the same time strive to get better as she realizes the brain does heal in many instances. She also learns that she must rely on other people to help her, that her children need more than a kiss goodbye in the morning and a story at bedtime, and that she can’t succumb to the pressure to be who she was. Sarah Nickerson must look forward, make changes and be true to herself and her capabilities before she can be the wife, mother, daughter, and employee she wants to be. It’s a long road and a hard lesson but one worthy of our attention.