BOOK CLUB: Every Note Played

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Author: Lisa Genova
ISBN: 9781925685299
RRP: $32.99
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Lisa Genova is the bestselling author of Still Alice which has been made into an award winning film. It is the only Genova title that I have read but she is certainly one cemented on my watch list.

Every Note Played is an in-depth and insightful exploration of the insidious ALS, the disease at the heart of the Ice Bucket Challenge; suffered by Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking. ALS is a disease that doesn’t discriminate, it could strike anyone.

Genova pens a heartbreaking tale of ALS when it strikes an accomplished concert pianist, whose first love has always been the piano. On tour and in the prime of his life Richard heads to the doctor for what he thinks is a bout of tendonitis, only to discover that it’s the early stages of ALS.

Less than a year later and things are progressing faster than he would like. Denial is no longer an option and Richard is watching his life slip further away, and take his independence with it.

Karina is Richard’s ex-wife and the mother of his child. The two have a volatile relationship and now that their daughter is away at college they don’t speak at all. Karina is a piano teacher and not finding it as fulfilling as she once did but she is still paralysed by excuses and fear, afraid to pursue the career path that once excited her.

Every Note Played explores ALS and the effect it has on Richard’s body, and on his mind, but it’s also a story of making peace. Karina and Richard are both holding onto more than their fair share of resentment and anger about their failed marriage and they don’t seem to own any of the responsibility for what went wrong.

Richard finds himself unable to live on his own and the only real option is for Karina to become his carer and have him move back into the house they once shared. Their relationship is still strained and there is a lot of resentment, living in such close quarters gives them endless opportunities to work through their issues and find forgiveness but will such strong willed people allow themselves to bend that far.

Genova pulls no punches in her stark and heartbreaking portrayal of ALS and the devastation it wreaks on bodies. She shines a light on the 24/7 nature of care required and gives a nod to some of the other high profile personalities living with ALS. This story is touching as well as devastating. The long road that wound down a lot quicker than expected and the long road to forgiveness for a passionate couple who were once so deeply in love.

All relationships were assessed and analysed as Richard became more and more trapped inside his head, being cut off from reliable communication leaves him introspective. Terminal illness can make or break a family and in this case, I think there was finally some progress made, but it was still a long time coming.

Karina and Richard are both characters who were drawn in great detail, who we got to know intimately as they wrestled with their issues. They held resentments from long before Richard’s disease brought them back under the same roof but once they are back in their marital home and Karina becomes his carer they start to grow new resentments.

My favourite character in the whole story is Bill, he is one of the home health aides caring for Richard and he is the absolute embodiment of compassion. If I ever need a personal care nurse I want someone just like Bill. We learn the motivations for his chosen career and we get to know him. He is empathetic but he is also more than just a nurse. He becomes a friend but he also treats more than just the challenges Richard faces, his care encompasses the family. He is invested and makes sure that he can remain one of the carers after Richard moves out of his area.

Every Note Played is a story of finding the courage to forgive and to really live, it’s about learning the peace that you can find for yourself when you offer forgiveness. It is raw, heartbreaking and sometimes hard to read but at the same time it is well worth the read. Genova has obviously done her homework, the story is well researched, beautifully written and emotional. I love that she is shining a light on tough topics and helping to bring these diseases into conversation, to make them talking points and hopefully bringing them extra attention can assist in the long term goals of treatments and cures.

Definitely well worth read, I would wholeheartedly recommend Every Note Played.

Lisa Genova can be contacted on, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster 30 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Every Note Played so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

Every Note Played is published by Simon & Schuster and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

29 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Every Note Played

  1. Every Note Played is an emotional rollercoaster , poignant, beautifully written and gripping.

    It’s based around Polish immigrant Karina and her conceet pianist estranged ex-husband Richard. Their relationship was complicated…Richard cheated and Karina had her own secrets too.

    Now bound together only by their college student daughter Grace, Karina learns that Richard is suffering from the debilitating and terminal condition ALS, otherwise known as Motor Neuron disease or ‘What Stephen Hawking had’.

    This is all the more topical as Stephen Hawking only died recently and this has brought the conversation about quality of life vs quantity to the forefront of our minds.

    Karina, through misdirected guilt, pity, duty or a mixture of reasons eventually decides to become Richard’s carer.

    Richard’s decline in functionality is all the more horrid because his career, his life, his very existance revolves around his beloved piano and his career as an acclaimed classical concert pianist.

    Karina was also destined for greatness as a classical pianist, but her true love is jazz. Something Richard could never understand and a love she dissolved as a dutiful wife and mother.

    I found myself constantly drawn into the debate of what would I do if I was in this situation…knowing the outcome?

    And Lisa Genova’s ability to weave the classical music into the text, like a constant calming accompaniment is brilliant.

    I loved reading Every Note played and I love Lisa’s mentions of the ALS charities at the end.

  2. Most of us would be familiar with Stephen Hawkings journey with ALS and the devastating effect it has on ones physical body, but not the mind.
    Richard, a revered and accomplished concert pianist, finds his body quickly starving away and the author, Lisa Genova, captures all emotions and rollercoaster ride that Richard experiences – from disbelief, reluctance, resentment to overcoming his pride and the heartbreak of living with this neurological disease.
    Also struggling with Richards diagnosis and his aloof relationship with their daughter, is Karina, Richard’s ex wife, herself a pianist but not as accomplished. Afraid of being pushed away but with no one else to care for him Karina becomes his reluctant carer along with the help of caring and compassionate Bill.
    Before reading Every Note Played, I was not very familiar with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease and it is very evident by Lisa’s extensive research that this is a true to life, almost biographical novel of a once known friend. Lisa is a brilliant writer, having written the Oscar nominated ‘Still Alice’ and having studied a PHd in Neuroscience at college, this deeply passionate, human story is also intermingled with the actual symptoms, signs and side effects of ALS.
    If you think you would enjoy a deeply touching, personal and unforgettable novel that makes you think as well as tugs at the heartstrings, give Every Note Played a read,

  3. Every Note Played was one of the most emotional and raw books I’ve ever read. It was both educational, heart warming, and heart wrenching all at the same time. I didn’t know anything about ALS before I read this book, but feel I have a good understanding to the horrible symptoms and decline that the sufferers and their families go through.

    While I didn’t like Richard as a character, I would never wish the pain and suffering he experienced on anyone. It is an eye opener that we need to put our loved ones first, as we never know what will happen. It was well written, especially the raw honesty of the emotions the family and loved ones experienced.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace, and Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

  4. Lisa Genova’s new novel Every Note Played is a moving and profound study in the hideous death sentence that is ALS and its inexorable and inescapable march on the lives of its sufferers and in turn their families and loved ones. At times almost too sad to bear, this novel explores not only the disease but the relationships of Richard and his family which are quite suddenly and forcefully brought to the forefront.

    Certainly a tearjerker but also leaves the reader feeling somewhat incongruously hopeful, I will certainly be recommending this book to family and friends, Thanks to Beauty and Lace, Lisa Genova and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Every Note Played.

  5. i found this quite an emotional book to read as my father in law suffered with MND similar but different, and it was so very hard as a family to watch his independence fade away.

    I thought it was very well written and didnt hold back what its like to suffer such horrible illnesses

    Have already passed this along to other family members and i am sure it will “do the rounds”

    My heart went out to Karina and felt every emotion with her.

    11/10 stars

  6. Thanks for the opportunity to read Every Note Played

    What a heart wrenching storyline of the devasting ALS & its effects on everyone concerned Richard & Karina are both strong characters who although seperated come together as the disease takes its course & Richard needs a carer both interesting characters but along comes Bill a personal care nurse my favourite character
    The rest I will leave for everyone who I hope get the chance to read this awe inspiring story

    I highly recommend this book & thank you Lisa Genova

  7. First up thank you Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for selecting me to read this book. This is my very first book by Lisa Genova and again I am so grateful to have been chosen to read this book.

    It was an emotional rollercoaster ride. I felt happiness, anger, frustration, confused and immense sadness. Before reading this book I did not know the depths of ALS my main knowledge was knowing that Stephen Hawking suffered from it. What a heartbreaking and horrible disease for anyone to suffer through not only for themselves but for their loved ones to watch them be taken away by it.

    This book is a must read and I highly recommend it. Very well written and no sugar coating. Thank you Lisa for a great book.

  8. Every Note Played is an emotional and well researched story on the degenerative disease ALS. When Richard, a concert pianist, is diagnosed with ALS he is at first in denial but as the degeneration of his muscles progresses he must face a life without his beloved piano. Genova goes through Richard’s slow degeneration and explains the symptoms in a poetic rather then clinical way. The characters inner feelings are expressed with clarity and compassion. Richard and his wife are divorced and we get both sides of the story with a dual POV. Genova focuses on relationships and forgiveness, the all consuming job of caring for a terminally ill loved one and the wonderful job done by home help workers. Had me in tears. A recommended read.

  9. This book is the first book in a long time for me, that I wasn’t able to put down.

    Lisa Genova takes you through the thoughts of someone who is diagnosed with ALS. Beginning with Richard who is in denial about his ALS and his wife Karina who refuses to believe that he actually is suffering from the disease. Richard who is a pianist and is known for playing at grand locations around the world has his life turned upside down when he is diagnosed with ALS.

    The book takes the reader through both Richard and Karinas thought process. Richard who is coming to terms with the immediate decline in his health and Karina as the ex wife who takes it upon herself to become carer to an ex husband that she has despised for so long.
    This book left me crying through the last couple chapters. Recommend it for all who will want to read it.

  10. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova is a must read book about the devastating effects of ALS on the body and the resounding emotional turmoil. I enjoyed reading the on-going and strained relationship between Richard and Katrina and how the ravaging effects of Richard’s ALS and subsequent side-effects healed their relationship. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster Publishers for the opportunity to read this book and to learn and have a greater understanding of ALS.

  11. I found Every Note Played by Lisa Genova to provide such insight into the disease ALS. It showcased not only the disease and the decline in health, but the true emotions and impact that it can have on a whole family. This novel follows the story of Richard who is a concert pianist and his ex-wife Karina, who had big dreams of being a jazz pianist but forfeited this dream early on to be a mother. The lives of Richard and Karina come together again when Richard is unable to care for himself in his own home. This is definitely a story of healing and forgiveness, and yes it is a bit of a tear jerker.
    Thank you, Beauty and Lace, for the opportunity to read this book. I enjoyed learning about the disease of ALS and it has given me a lot more understanding regarding the disease.

  12. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova follows the life of Richard, a concert pianist, who starts showing symptoms of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
    Richard is in massive denial as he knows that he will one day no longer be able to function let alone play piano. He tells his agent that he has tendonitis so that his concerts around the world will be cancelled and as Richard reaches each milestone of losing control of his body this fabulous book follows his story.
    Every Note Played shows that even in dysfunctional families there is sympathy for those that are suffering. Karina, Richard’s ex-wife, selflessly opens her home to him in his hours of need and helps him through each and every decline of the disease.
    As I started crying from page 65, this book was a challenge to read – can’t read whilst out and about or if you know someone is coming to the house BUT it is a book that was hard to put down. If this book is made into a movie you will not get away with the small pack of tissues that fit into your handbag but will need the family size box and no sharing.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read this amazing book.

  13. Gosh, this book had me hooked from the 1st page, I couldn’t put it down.
    It was so moving and you could feel the conflict from all parties. It was artfully written, at first I thought I was going to favour 1 character over another and to my surprise I was moved by everyone. Their pain was so palpable, it caught me off guard and felt utterly absorbed by it.
    I would recommend it this to anyone who is looking for a book with heart and depth!!!
    Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity of reading ‘Every Note Played’… It’s a story that left footprints….!

  14. Richard is an accomplished concert pianist, with a history of performances all over the world. At least, he was 8 months ago. He has been diagnosed with ALS – his right arm is completely paralyzed, and he knows his left arm will be next.

    Three years ago, his wife Karina took down their wedding photo from the wall. But she still hasn’t been able to move on, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for not following her dream of jazz piano.

    As Richard’s health deteriorates and he can no longer live independently, Karina reluctantly becomes his carer, as they both try to reconcile before it’s too late.

    Having read some of Lisa’s other books before, I had a rough idea of what to expect. What I didn’t expect was to be able to vividly see, and feel, what Richard was experiencing, as if I was living it myself.

    Richard and Karina are characters that I love to hate. They are both arrogant and self-absorbed, and hold only blame and anger for each other. However, I love that the characters did not change majorly throughout the book. Many books have characters starting off like this, who then become all sweet and loving, but these characters do not change so drastically. There’s no real happily ever after, and I really appreciate that.

    The descriptive language used in the novel really allowed me to really experience ALS in my own way. When Richard experienced difficulty swallowing or breathing, I could feel myself experiencing it too. I love reading books that allow you to be in the characters’ shoes.

    I’m really glad that I read this novel!

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