Every Note Played

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

Karina’s musical talent surpasses her boyfriend Richard’s, but she sacrifices her dream to their marriage and child, and then falls in love with jazz, a genre abhorrent to Richard. He builds his career as an international classical pianist, his inflating ego one of many factors in their divorce. He attempts to hide the onset of ALS from his fans, his agent, and Karina. Due to circumstances and finances, Richard moves back in with Karina, who takes over his care with the help of home health aides. In the year that robs Richard of his body, he at last opens up emotionally to his estranged daughter, and eventually he and Karina find a kind of peace.

Beyond being a graphic, heart-wrenching depiction of a man succumbing to a fatal disease, this story shows how women accommodate men and lose themselves, accepting a smaller life. It’s also a homily to home health aides who make the effort to maintain the dignity of their clients. The rolling flow of the writing is interrupted only by the excessive use of analogies, whole paragraphs at times. In Author Notes, Genova offers a peek into her research and sources for an accurate representation of living with ALS. The details are so vivid, if she’d written in first person, this novel would have read like a memoir.

I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher through NetGalley.

I posted my review to my website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and B&N.
Was this review helpful?
Lisa Genova is a must read author for me. I have read and enjoyed each of her books. While they all are emotional reads, Every Note Played wrecked me. Richard, a concert pianist, is diagnosed with ALS. The novel follows his devastating battle with the disease. As always, Genova provides an up-close looks at how the disease ravages the patient, but also how it affects family members, in this case ex-wife Karina and college age daughter Grace. I think this is Genova's best novel yet.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a digital copy to read.
Was this review helpful?
Every Note Played is a heart wrenching story about a couple who lost their way but not their respect, for one another. Karina and Richard are both musicians who fell in love over the piano. Karina plays jazz and Richard is more of a classical purist, yet they are able to find commonalities even beyond their instruments. Over time though, secrets and insecurities creep into their marriage, ultimately contributing to its demise. This aspect of the story is not unique or new; the added dimension is that Richard acquired ALS about xx years after the divorce, and Karina becomes his caretaker. They each have to face their own internal demons as well as make peace with how they treated one another. 

As Richard’s disease progresses, he begins to develop humility. Karina rediscovers long lost confidence. The two figure out a way to live together while also facing Richard’s certain death sentence. Their ability to find a way to communicate and even somewhat reconcile make for a compelling read. Side characters include their college age daughter, Richard’s caretaker and Karina’s best friend; each one offers insight into the character’s development and move the story along.

Overall, though not an upbeat book, it is honest and informative. It was hard to put down, as I wanted to find out what would happen next. The emotional complexities made the book compelling. I also have relatives with this disease and learning about what they go through was difficult to process, yet I appreciated learning more about the disease. Though fiction, the author did a tremendous amount of research and I think that what it is in the book is an accurate depiction of some one with ALS. She also shared information at the end about new trials, which offer hope to those afflicted. Strongly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
“He turns his head ninety degrees left, then right, testing himself, relieved that he can still do this. Once his neck and voice are paralyzed, he’ll be reduced to eye-gaze technology and a computer-generated voice for communicating. He opens his eyes wide and pinches them shut tight. Good. When he can no longer blink, he’ll be locked in. He doesn’t want to die, but he hopes he dies before that happens. Maybe that won’t happen.” • •

I will be honest and admit in the beginning I had some concerns -- I really, really disliked the main characters in this novel, so much so that I almost put the book down. I am so glad that I kept going because Genova did what she does best — she humanized a devastating disease within these pages and penned a gorgeous story of forgiveness. Every Note Played is the story of Richard, a world-renowned pianist who is forced to retire early from his career when he is diagnosed with ALS. Due to his abrasive nature (he is a COLOSSAL ass), no one is lining up to care for him. Once he comes to terms with the fact that he can’t do this alone, he reluctantly agrees to accept help from his ex-wife, Katrina. •

My favorite character was Richard's nurse, Bill. He was a ray of light, laughter and kindness and my heart was so tender to him. Having recently gone through the hospice experience with my own dad, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the people who work day in and day out to make a patient's last days as comfortable as possible. I shut the book a sobbing wreck and was reminded how precious our time with our loved ones is and how we need to make the most of every day we have. This is a beautiful story of the grace it often takes to forgive those who have deeply hurt us and the strength required to watch a loved one succumb to a sickness that you have no power to stop. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ emotional Stars.
Was this review helpful?
Just as Genoa’s previous book, this one was just as moving.  I love how the characters were developed and  the music background added an element to the story.  The story was sad and touching.  Similar to stories like You’re Not You by Michelle Wilder and Me Before You by John Moyes, this is another caretaker storyline where it involves husband and wife who are divorced.   I liked the way the story weaves each partners part in the demise of the marriage and how they worked to communicate the hurt. I am glad that the two were able to come to a healing place.  At first when we learn that Richard has ALS it was unclear why Karina would take him in when he didn’t even offer. She felt so angry with him that she would go visit and then volunteer to let him move back in with him felt so wrong.  Feeling with Richard was going through and all his thoughts was helpful in understanding how one lives with ALS. It feels like a hostage situation where no outcome feels safe and he is helpless and trapped in his own body.  I always find myself fascinated with this topic: grief and dying but ALS is one where there is no cure for.   This story actually makes you feel what it feels like to suffer with it.
Was this review helpful?
This novel centers on a heartbreaking situation: Richard, a concert pianist, develops ALS. He loses his career, his independence, and his dignity. His acrimonious divorce from Karina, also a pianist who'd put her career on hold when his took off, becomes a factor when his illness robs him of the ability to live alone. Both Richard and Karina are forced to deal with mistakes of the past. ALS is described in brutal, excruciating detail. A good story, but given the topic, not a fun book to read, and I had a hard time liking either of the two main characters. I felt sorry for them, but didn't really care about them.
Was this review helpful?
2.5 stars.  This book missed the mark for me.  This should have been a tearjerker as there were so many opportunities for emotional scenes, but they were just instead glossed over.  The author does do a phenomenal job describing ALS and the struggles both physically and mentally.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! The research that went into this book was amazing. The story was well done and I really cared about the characters and the emotions they went through. It was eye opening to learn what living with ALS means and the choices one has to make. Loved this book.
Was this review helpful?
This was a beautifully written and poignant story.  It touched on all the human aspects of ALS , not only those with the disease , but the caregivers and loved ones that surround them daily.  The redemption of past wrongs and how love and understanding was able to right them was the best and central part of the novel.
Was this review helpful?
Lisa Genova once again exhibits her amazing ability to humanize disease and medical conditions in Every Note Played. She is a master storyteller who develops characters that are very realistic and easy to relate to. I highly recommend this novel..
Was this review helpful?
I read Lisa Genova's Still Alice in 2014 and it made my best-of list that year. That book really spoke to me and I was impressed with Genova's ability to combine the science of an illness and a really wonderful story. It was not the first book I'd read by Genova; in 2012 I read Left Neglected and felt very much the same about it. Which meant that I am prone to want to read anything that she writes and was eager to read this one when I first found out about it.

One of the things that I said about both Left Neglected and Still Alice was that the characters felt so real and relatable. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the same way about the characters in Every Note Played. The focus here is very tightly pulled in on just Richard and Karina so it's very important that readers care about them. But I found that I didn't care enough about them as people. Certainly I felt sorry for Richard as he watched his life slip away from him and sorry for Karina as her life becomes entirely wrapped up in having to care for him. Yes, they both had very tough childhoods which should have made me understand them better. But the crux of really caring about their relationship is that readers need to believe that, once upon a time, they were in love so that we can care about how their relationship failed. But, I didn't feel that way, so it was harder to be sad that their marriage had failed and harder to buy into the need to forgive each other and try to remember what they once had.

Genova has plenty to teach readers about the terrible betrayal of the body that is ALS. Stephen Hawking was the poster boy for ALS for decades but the truth is that those who contract ALS rarely live that long. I was astonished by how fast Richard's disease progressed; although I haven't looked into how accurate that was, Genova does have a PhD in neuroscience and her books seem well researched so I always feel like I've been well educated when I've finished one.

I only wish the story here had been one that drew me in more, that I had cared more about the characters. Still, I must admit that I did tear up near the end. So maybe I did come to care more than I realized.
Was this review helpful?
4 Very solid stars. 
The concert pianist is loved by everyone. And no one. 
I loved Every Note Played. Characters were real and faulty, they tried. They hurt, they healed. They loved. 

ALS is devastating for anyone, but as a musician, I ached with Richard as he lost one hand, then another, his livelihood, his passion, his purpose. “Eight months ago, his right hand held five of the finest fingers in the world. Today his right arm and hand are paralyzed. Dead to him, as if they already belong to a corpse…the cool sleekness of the keys, and the touch is sensual, seductive. The keys want to be caressed, the relationship ready and available to him, but he can’t respond, and this is suddenly the cruelest moment of his life.”

I ached for Karina, his ex, who stayed in their “three- bedroom colonial museum of her devastated marriage." Genova’s writing says so much with so little. The story stole my heart from the beginning. Background stories added depth and understanding to these struggling souls. Genova knows her medical stuff. I learned a lot without ever plodding through overdone details. 

Some humor lifts the story. “Listening to Schumann is like looking at a Picasso, like breathing in God. Listening to Bill serenade him with Broadway tunes is a fork dipped in vinegar, stabbing him in the eye.”

He plays a single not, holding the key and pedal down, listening to its dimension, then it is “drifting, dispersing, fragile, decaying. He inhales. The smell of coffee lingers. He listens. The note is gone.  Every note played is a life and a death.”  Our world is transient. Take time and relish each note moment. Love as many of them as you can. 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for granting access to an arc of this book for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful, powerful and importanat. Genova does it again.  Well written and such a heart wrenching story.
Was this review helpful?
I had read a previous book by Lisa Genova, Still Alice, and it absolutely moved me. When I saw Every Note Played on NetGalley, I knew I had to request it and feel extremely appreciative that I was given a review copy. 

I love how the author gave the viewpoints of both the person experiencing ALS, Richard, and the one who ends up taking care of him, Karina. I found both perspectives moving and really tore my heart in two. It was just so heartbreaking to read how Richard’s body was physically deteriorating, but mentally still strong. You really feel how trapped Richard must have felt in his own body and just how difficult it must have been for him. Then, to learn about Karina’s past and current emotions made me also feel for her and her torn heart.

Since the perspectives are mainly Richard’s and Karina’s, these are the characters we learn the most about. Both internally struggle with not only the ALS progression, but their complicated feelings toward each other. The author gives the reader bits and pieces about their relationship and the reasoning behind their torn marriage. It was a little frustrating not knowing earlier on in the text both sides to the story, but we get to learn eventually what happened between the two of them. Genova does a wonderful job in helping the reader understand the progression of ALS and the difficulties the disease is for the person experiencing it and those around him/her.

One of the things that I found intriguing both in this book and Still Alice is how well-educated and well-researched the book is. In the Acknowledgments section of Every Note Played, the author reveals who she has interviewed, spoken with, and spent time with to understand more about ALS. She spent time with those who have experienced ALS, doctors who work with patients with ALS, and others. I am not only impressed with the amount of thought and research that Genova put forth toward this book, but also the emotions she was able to weave into the story.

Overall, this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed and was itching to pick it up every time I had to put it down. It has also made me excited to read more of her works. I highly recommend Every Note Played to those who would like to learn more about ALS and who enjoy stories that have a sad/reflective tone throughout.
Was this review helpful?
I had a difficult time finishing "Every Note Played." I read this book because I really enjoyed "Still Alice" and was hoping for something similar. While "Every Note Played" is similar in theme I felt that I was unable to connect to the book. Richard is not a likeable character, he is very arrogant and it's hard to feel for him and his diagnosis with ALS. That's not to say that I didn't feel for him, I just wasn't able to fully feel the pain and sadness that one would expect. I also found Karina to be a frustrating character. She often declares that Richard is the cause of all her problems when really it is herself. She uses him as a crutch to not live her life to the fullest and therefore I couldn't connect with her. The story is well written. I would have enjoyed it more if I was able to connect with the characters better and really feel for them.
Was this review helpful?
Opening line:
"Richard is playing the second of Schumann's Fantasie in C Major, op 17, the final piece of his solo recital at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami."

This was a gut-wrenching, moving, insightful, painful, story about redemption, forgiveness, lost opportunities and relationships. I think it's worth reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book...
I love learning while reading fiction and my eyes were opened to this devastating disease and the humans who live with it. 

The story is told in two point's of view: Richard and Karina.
Richard is a world-class pianist who has dedicated his life to playing, practicing and touring, possibly at the expense of his wife and daughter. 
Karina, Richard's ex-wife, blames Richard for what she feels she's lost in her life. She finds out at a party that he is diagnosed with ALS, a death sentence. 
I learned more about this destructive disease than ever and it's haunting. I've had friends who's had a family member with ALS. One lived for over SIX years. After reading this story, I can't imagine what that family went through for that many years. My empathy for anyone touched by ALS is deep, deeper than before I read EVERY SINGLE NOTE. 
The ending was beautiful. 

Thank you to the author who took the time to write this story.
Thank you to netgalley for an early read of this story.

For the sensitive reader, there are over 40 swear words.
Was this review helpful?
A poignant and thought-provoking novel. Worth a read.
Was this review helpful?
Some 5-star books aren't easy to review. It's hard to say I enjoyed this book, or that I loved it. Yet I did. Lisa Genova tackles difficult subjects, and difficult characters, and does it beautifully. Anyone with some familiarity with the nature of ALS knows that it must be a horrifying diagnosis to have to accept, much less live with. But that's just what the characters in this book deal must do, and in doing so they come to terms with each other and their failed marriage as well. These aren't perfect characters who had been living a charmed life. They had difficult pasts that contributed to the issues in their marriage and their relationship after their divorce. Genova details the progression of Richard's disease with expertise and compassion, and gradually exposes both characters' pasts, and it isn't always a pretty read. But it all feels very real, and I found it difficult to put down.
Was this review helpful?
I was disappointed with the character development. I had a hard time feeling real empathy for the characters because the disease seemed to take priority over character development. I felt the descriptions of living with ALS was realistic but that wasn't enough to pull me in the same way the author's previous book did.
Was this review helpful?
I can’t give this book more than 3.5 stars. And it’s a personal reason and not the writing. 
Genova obviously did her research into piano playing and ALS as she rightfully credits in the acknowledgements. 
But this book was so depressing. Maybe i like my escapism into thrillers and suspense too much. 
There were no characters to cheer on. To hope for. To love. 
Yes. You felt for them. And maybe that was the “catch” in this book. What a terrible struggle that affects not only the ALS patient but his family. 
The book really does give insight into what the patient is thinking/feeling but can’t articulate because of the disease. 
Kudos to the author. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?