The Current

Lisa Genova unravels Huntington's disease in 'Inside the O'Briens'

Huntington's disease can ravage the body like Parkinson's, the mind like Alzheimers. And if your parent is diagnosed, odds are fifty-fifty that you will be too. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova, author of "Still Alice", joins us talk about her latest book about life inside a family living with Huntington's.
Novelist and neuroscientist Lisa Genova's latest novel, "Inside the O'Briens", introduces a fictional family coming to grips with the real, and incurable, Huntington's Disease. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
There's a simple blood test that can tell you if you carry the gene... Would you want to know?  Would you be able to live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?- Lisa Genova, novelist and neuroscientist

Huntington's is a disease very much bound up in family ties. It's an inherited condition. If your parent has Huntington's, then you have a fifty-fifty chance of developing it too. And so in families where Huntington's is present, the disease looms large.

That's certainly the case in the fictional O'Brien family, in a new novel by Lisa Genova. You may know Lisa Genova from her previous bestsellers including her debut novel "Still Alice." That was a story centered on early onset Alzheimer's, and since then her books have focused on other neurological disorders, including autism and Left Neglect.

Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist, as well as a novelist, and it's with that rare combination of skills that she brings the drama of life with the disease alive on the page. Her new novel is called "Inside the O'Briens," and charts what happens inside a family when a Boston police officer named Joe O'Brien gets his Huntington's diagnosis.

Lisa Genova joined us in our Toronto studio. 

If you have Huntington's disease in your family, let us know if this resonates with you. Send us an email. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.

For the children of parents with Huntington's disease, there's a big decision to make -- whether to be tested or not. 

A young woman, named Kelly, whose mother has Huntington's, decided to get tested to find out if she carried the Huntington's disease. Her story aired on This American Life.