Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

April 10, 2015 Whitney Review 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa GenovaInside the O.Briens by Lisa Genova
Published by Gallery on April 7, 2015
Genres: General Fiction
Source: Netgalley

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Fond Of


  • The most important aspect of Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova is that it brings awareness to Huntington’s Disease. Being epileptic, I understand how important it is to “get the word out there” and admire the novel for that.
  • Lisa Genova creates an emotional roller-coaster and has imagined characters that touch with intensity.
  • Inside the O’Briens is very heartbreaking, showing the horrible genetic component of Huntington’s.  The novel did so maturely, without restraint and assembled a pounding in your chest each time one of Joe O’Brien’s children read their test results.


Not Fond Of


  • Joe and Rosie’s reaction to their son Patrick’s child out-of-wedlock bothered me as they apparently decided to write the baby off. Considering the O’Briens were all about family, it seemed unreasonable to me.


Final Thoughts

It is a heavy book and one must be in the mood for it.  At the end of Inside the novel Katie decides to be tested.  This is after two of her siblings test positive.  Although, the novel ends when the envelope is being opened.  A cut to commercial moment.  Despite the desire to know her genes it leaves the reader with the message of living each day to its fullest as you never know what tomorrow will bring.


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