cover image Every Note Played

Every Note Played

Lisa Genova. S&S/Scout, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1780-7

Genova (Still Alice) captivates with the painful but unflinching story of the demise of celebrated concert pianist Richard Evans. The novel follows debonair Richard and his ex-wife Karina, once also a pianist, who have just undergone an acrimonious divorce after a long-poisoned marriage. Richard’s sudden diagnosis with ALS and swift decline bring them under the same roof again as Karina moves back to take care of him, forcing them to confront long-buried truths about their relationship and themselves. The narration alternates between Karina, the sometimes bitter, always stalwart caretaker, and Richard, the patient who has lost his physical abilities, but gained emotional clarity. Genova meticulously catalogues the disease’s physical ravages and corresponding psychological toll, which makes for gut-wrenching but suspenseful reading. The strained, frustrated, yet tender dynamic between Richard, Karina, and their grown daughter, Grace, occasionally spills into the saccharine, though the high emotion usually feels justified given the subject. The detail Genova infuses into each narrator’s thought process, observations, and love for music makes them distinct, yet also reveals their compatibility. Genova also admirably refrains from making either too angelic; their harrowing journey, though it lacks any true narrative surprises, is both substantively informative about ALS and an emotionally wrenching psychological portrait. (Apr.)