Every Note Played by Lisa GenovaEvery Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note Played

byLisa Genova

Paperback | January 29, 2019

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“Unsparing in her depiction of the disease’s harrowing effects, neuroscientist Genova also celebrates humanity.” —People

“Sometimes it’s easier to tell truth in fiction…And she tells it with heart and hope.” NPR

“Her juxtaposition of scientific detail with compassionate, heartfelt storytelling is unparalleled.” Bookreporter

Every Note Played will grip and gut you.”The Boston Globe

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.
Lisa Genova (born November 11, 1970) has a degree in Biopsychology, from Bates College, and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Genova is the author of the New York Times Bestselling novel STILL ALICE, which is now a major feature film with Julianne Moore. She is also the author of the novel LEFT NEGLECTED and LOVE ANTHONY...
Title:Every Note PlayedFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 0.7 inPublished:January 29, 2019Publisher:Gallery/Scout PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476717818

ISBN - 13:9781476717814

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deep and terrifying... In "Every Note Played", Dr. Genova takes us on a deep and terrifying exploration of the physical, intellectual and emotional torment that is ALS. As I dictate this using my speech to text software, I have been living with ALS since my diagnosis 29 months ago. Like Richard, my ALS first made itself noticed in my right hand and now both arms are useless. I'm on the same track as Richard, although progressing more slowly and without bulbar symptoms, so far. For me, this was a terrifying book to read. In her description of Richard’s thoughts, Dr. Genova precisely mirrors my own. Watching my own limbs twitch, I remember thinking, “His neurons are dying, and the muscles they feed are literally starving for input. Every twitch is a muscle stammering, gasping, begging to be saved. They can't be saved.” Intellectually, I know what my journey to come looks like; Dr. Genova helps me understand much better what it's likely going to feel like. I've read everything I can get my hands on about ALS, and this book is the first to accurately describe the emotional journey. And yes, it's terrifying. Would I recommend this book? Yes, unreservedly to anyone whose life or work brings them into interaction with somebody living with ALS. Dr. Genova's emotional narratives provide a deep foundation for understanding the disease's impact. For those close to someone living with ALS, or living with ALS I would recommend the book with a note of caution. The recommendation needs to be be tempered with an understanding of how the patient and their loved ones are coping. The descriptions of ALS progression – emotional, intellectual and physical – are very real. Just as ALS' pattern and rate of progression are unpredictable and different in each person, so too is each person's ability to handle the steady and relentless loss of function and autonomy, bit by bit, week by week, with each noticeable change triggering another grieving cycle, another milestone on the journey to a certain end. As Richard tells us, “Everything begins and ends. Every day and night, every concerto, every relationship, every life. Everything ends eventually.” Please don't shy away from recommending the book to anyone, yet please, do so with compassion.
Date published: 2019-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Short Life with ALS This books tells some of the honest and devastating ways that disease attacks the body. It's about disease, tragedy, honesty and how it's never too late to say sorry.
Date published: 2019-02-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Insight into ALS Good insight into the progression of ALS. Emotional at the end.
Date published: 2018-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read; very intense This was a good read and well written. Very emotional so reader beware!
Date published: 2018-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lisa Genova is such an amazing author! I loved this novel, and seeing the struggles he experienced with the disease was an eye opener.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from really beautiful always loved Lisa Genova and I'm so glad she wrote this book. Nothing will compare to Still Alice, but it was such a great read and really touched my heart.
Date published: 2018-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.
Date published: 2018-08-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting and informative I have read and greatly enjoyed Lisa Genova's previous books, especially Left Neglected, but not so much this one. The subject matter was interesting and heartbreaking but I found that I did not really connect or like the characters. I read it over a few days and it certainly was not boring. I read a lot of books and feel that this one was just okay.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lisa Genova Delivers Again! Lisa Genova is one of my favourite authors. She researches her topic and incorporates information into her narrative in such a way as to draw the reader further and further into the world in which her characters live. I am never disappointed.
Date published: 2018-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping & heart wrenching As a pianist I can only just begin to understand how horrendous it must have been for the character Richard to lose his ability to play. Having just injured a finger and been unable to play for a month was torture. I could not put the book down, despite Richard being rather unlikable.
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting- I've enjoyed all of Lisa Genova's books- this one is maybe my least favorite. Despite his difficulties, I could not "like" Richard and found myself frustrated at times by Karina's acceptance of his self centredness. Forgiveness and caring run throughout the novel but I just didn't see how it could develop so quickly- for example, Karina went from loathing/hating RIchard to completely accepting and moving on- kind of unrealistic. I've shared the book with friends who have mentioned feelings similar to mine- a decent story, much better than some others available in the book store, but not the quality I've come to expect from Lisa Genova's books.
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from another informative novel All of Genova's books are well-written, but most are incredibly sad. This will not take you to a happy place, but it will make you aware of what this illness holds for the patients and families.
Date published: 2018-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome I read the book through tears and loved it. A celebration of the human soul
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! I've read every novel by Lisa Genova & this one is just as great as the rest. Shed a few tears. It's good for the soul!
Date published: 2018-06-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Easy to read I didn't agree with a lot of aspects within the book...
Date published: 2018-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartwarming and Educational Lisa Genova books never let you down. I always feel like I am in the room with these characters experiencing what they are experiencing with them. I don't know how she does it. I also tend to learn a lot with her books. If she keeps writing, which I hope she does, I'll keep reading!
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read! This book was very difficult to put down. Heartwarming, eye opening and very touching! You will have a hard time putting it down BUT definitely not turning each page!
Date published: 2018-06-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Important topic, but unfortunate characters Disease does not discriminate. This much is true about ALS and its grip on Richard, a world-renowned pianist. The author provided readers with a shocking revelation of how quickly this degenerative disease takes hold of a healthy being. I could have done without the music-heavy text and the rocky relationship between Richard and Karina, but Lisa Genova covered an important topic and brought to light the horrific reality of those living with ALS.
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Book This book was very difficult to put down. Heartwarming, eye opening and very touching. I could relate so much of my life to this book in so many ways. Thank you Lisa for writing another great novel.
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must-read! Lisa Genova always has the perfect way to describe the life of someone affected by a disease. In this case, she talks about ALS and how it changes the life of the person and their family. it is a greatly touching story which will most likely not leave you dry-eyed.
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another heartbreaking novel Another great book by Lisa Genova. She has captured the knack for allowing the reader a glimpse into what it would feel like and be around someone with a terminal disease. Well done. Not her best novel - which is why 4 stars, but definitely a great read.
Date published: 2018-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Cry Having lost a friend to this devastating disease, I applaud the author for her raw and realistic portrayal of what life is like for someone battling ALS. It was a hard read to get through on a personal level but I came away with an even deeper understanding of the inner struggles that go on for someone who loses control of their body bit by bit. To have it play out in the life of a talented pianist was painstakingly brilliant.
Date published: 2018-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS BOOK I had a chance to go see Lisa talk about this book, and to buy a signed copy! I really don't know anyone who has ALS, but I felt like I did after reading this. I understand now that like any disease, this one affects everyone not just the person who has it. I felt bad for the wife, who was taking care of her ex even though she hated him. I felt bad for the daughter, and for the person who actually had it. Great read. Not fast and very very true to ALS. She is a talented writer, who goes above and beyond in her research to make sure she is writing the best novel.
Date published: 2018-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVE For anyone who knows of someone who has recently been diagnosed with ALS i recommend this. It puts into perspective how difficult it will be for all the members of the family. This is a disease that affects the whole family...
Date published: 2018-05-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not my favourite Genova This book was alright, but I found it hard to get into and not as great as Genova's other books.
Date published: 2018-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BEST BOOK I READ LATELY Definitely recommend this touching story. It made me cry at the end, very well written. This book is about caring for your family and loving them no matter what.
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As a pianist I loved it! Loved the way Lisa Genova included so many musical aspects and piano relations. As a piano player and teacher, it made my heart sing and soar. It also opened my eyes up much more to the world of ALS. Amazing book- as always the author did her research on everything ALS related. Read right to the very end, as it is amazing how many people the author has had her life touched by/met/worked with/ knows that contributed to the knowledge she infused in writing this book.
Date published: 2018-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Genova Book! Genova never disappoints to present the human emotions behind every medical case
Date published: 2018-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from She Never Ever Disappoints So articulately written - Genova captures emotion and flawlessly pairs it with medical fact to leave a thoughtful impression with the reader
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly beautiful I finished this book 2 days ago and can't stop thinking of it. The story is incredibly well written and so heartbreaking. I became so invested in the characters and their lives. I can't remember the last time I cried while reading; and this was ugly-heart wrenching-sobbing.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I liked this story Just like STILL ALICE, a human interest story from multiple perspectives.
Date published: 2018-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative read Any book written by Lisa Genova is surely to be more informative on the subject than you would expect. A great and rare combination of a brilliant literary talent and of a scientific approach. She observes life and people around us like no one else. A book to savour and reflect upon.
Date published: 2018-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another amazing book I have read all her books - never disappointed. She tackles difficult subjects within the knowledge of her background. The books and characters are believable , heartwarming and heartbreaking . She is absolutely readable and amazing
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this one! Lisa Genova is known for her emotional, medical stories that pull at the heartstrings. I still think about Still Alice and I read that when it first came out. While her last book didn’t really float my boat I knew this one would, for a number of reasons. I’ve been in the role of caregiver in the past so I could empathize here and was prepared for it to hit close to home. As well as knowing two lovely women that were stricken with ALS, it’s a terrible disease and this book really brings to light its horrific progression. Told from the POV of both Richard and Karina was what made this a totally authentic and emotional read. The author didn't hold back as she described the progression of ALS, it is blatantly obvious the amount of research that went into Every Note Played and while at times the symptoms were told matter of factly it wasn't in a clinical unfeeling manner but with compassion and respect. Even at the end in the author's notes Genova talks about those she knew and lost to ALS, her research and even how to help, making this book all the more gripping. The audio version was great and I highly recommend it, it was addictive and another Lisa Genova that will stay with me.
Date published: 2018-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Scarf My daughter purchased a beautiful scarf for MothersDay , but couldn't wait till then to give it to me , as I had purchased some notebooks that matched,,, I wear it while I'm writing & now I think of her! Thank You Indigo for all the thought put into your amazing gifts...
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Back in the summer of 2014, people were nominated on social media to either pour a bucket of ice water over their head on video to be posted or donate to an ALS association. Some did both. Others gave instead of pouring a bucket of ice water over their head. The point was to raise awareness of ALS. I, for one, still did not know what ALS truly was, the bearing on someone diagnosed with it, and its impact on others. And that is why I am grateful for Every Note Played. I believe that pouring a bucket of ice water over your head also does not best exemplify what ALS can genuinely do because that indeed was what I thought it felt like to have ALS. Maybe others too interpreted the same. In Every Note Played, Lisa Genova, who is a neuroscientist herself, explores what it actually does to someone with ALS, as well as their families. This depiction of what a family with ALS can do to someone, whether diagnosed or in some way related, is possibly the best example I would refer others to, like Lisa Genova’s other novels as well, which I all enjoyed. The fiction in a real-life situation provides the best example of a glimpse into a family’s life, let alone the person. Additionally, the writing is also something to be admired for as well that coincides with Richard, our main lead who is unfortunately diagnosed with ALS. Though Richard and Karina are divorced, and Karina voluntarily becomes his caregiver, there are personal regrets and secrets they both shared. Though I am not supportive in Richard’s faults, this novel gave a glimpse that no matter what anyone does, ALS is undoubtedly a disease that should not be wished upon someone, nor have to face. It is my hope for others who read this story that treatment, and more hopefully a cure, will soon be discovered. Until then, instead of pouring buckets of ice water, I suggest reading Every Note Played, begin a conversation, and spread awareness.
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! Lisa Genova did it again! What a beautiful story about ugly and devastating disease.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow!! What an incredible story! What an incredibly devastating disease!!!
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't put it down I love all of Lisa Genova's books and was eager for this one about ALS. I am about 3/4 the way through it right now and cannot put it down.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engrossing story dealing with family dynamics and ALS I have read Lisa Genova's previous novels and loved them all, so I was anxious to read "Every Note Played", and it did not disappoint. Richard, a world renowned concert pianist, is divorced from his wife Karina and estranged from his college student daughter Grace. In his mid-40's Richard is stricken with ALS, and despite their animus towards each other, Karina steps up to help care for Richard. "Every Note Played" deals with how Richard and his family cope with this horrible illness. While the story is depressing, and the reader senses how it will end, I enjoyed the book very much. As with Genova's previous novels, this is a GR8 read.
Date published: 2018-04-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Depressing but also very informative This book was unrelentingly bleak. I didn't expect a ton of laughs from a book about ALS but this was seriously harsh. There was no light in the dark and it made it really hard to get through. It's a super honest and graphic depiction of what living and dying with ALS is like for both the patient and the caregivers and it's just as depressing and brutal as you would imagine. As always. Lisa Genova brings personality and humanity to all her characters, I especially loved Bill, but the main character is the disease which permeates every aspect of the story and these characters' lives. It was depressing but also very informative. It might be helpful (and terrifying) for those diagnosed with the disease and their loved ones because it certainly paints a vivid picture of what to expect.
Date published: 2018-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read An intriguing look into the depths of ALS and how the lead couple copes with it. Kudos to the Karina character as I'm not so sure many people would be that selfless given the same circumstances.
Date published: 2018-03-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's a "Meh" For Me This book fell flat for me. Lisa Genova normally interweaves her characters into a beautiful story while taking the reader on a medical journey. I found Richard and Karina's characters were unlikable with no real connection to each other. It made the book "unbelievable" and heavy. That aside, it’s worth reading to understand the progression and choices for someone with ALS.
Date published: 2018-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The story of a man and a woman Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada, Gallery/Scout Press and NetGalley for providing me with an e-galley of Every Note Played by Lisa Genova in exchange for an honest review. This is the third novel, written by Lisa Genova, that I have read. She does not disappoint. With Every Note Played, the author of Still Alice and Left Neglected puts the reader inside the body and mind of a concert pianist stricken with ALS. Richard's talent has brought him devoted audiences from all over the world. Until the diagnosis of ALS. He is divorced from Karina due to lack of communication and his cheating with other women. It soon becomes evident that Richard cannot manage his illness while living alone and Karina moves him back to the family home that he left years before. What shines in this novel is the way the author presents this illness in such a sympathetic and detailed way. You will find yourself holding your breath when Richard has difficulty breathing and you will also experience the disease through Karina's eyes. This is not just the account of an illness. It is the story of a man and a woman. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thank you to Netgalley, to the publisher and to the Author. I have always enjoyed reading Lisa Genova's books, including this one. I give this book 4.5 stars. I found this book to be a good mix, facts about what it is like to live with ALS blended into a well written story. I would definitely recommend this book to friends.
Date published: 2018-02-26

Read from the Book

Every Note Played CHAPTER ONE If Karina had grown up fifteen kilometers down the road in either direction north or south, in Gliwice or Bytom instead of Zabrze, her whole life would be different. Even as a child, she never doubted this. Location matters in destiny as much as it does in real estate. In Gliwice, it was every girl’s birthright to take ballet. The ballet teacher there was Miss Gosia, a former celebrated prima ballerina for the Polish National Ballet prior to Russian martial law, and because of this, it was considered a perk to raise daughters in otherwise grim Gliwice, an unrivaled privilege that every young girl would have access to such an accomplished teacher. These girls grew up wearing leotards and buns and tulle-spun hopes of pirouetting their way out of Gliwice someday. Without knowing specifically what has become of the girls who grew up in Gliwice, she’s sure that most, if not all, remain firmly anchored where they began and are now schoolteachers or miners’ wives whose unrequited ballerina dreams have been passed on to their daughters, the next generation of Miss Gosia’s students. If Karina had grown up in Gliwice, she would most certainly not have become a ballerina. She has horrible feet, wide, clumsy flippers with virtually no arch, a sturdy frame cast on a long torso and short legs, a body built more for milking cows than for pas de bourrée. She would never have been Miss Gosia’s star pupil. Karina’s parents would have put an end to bartering valuable coal and eggs for ballet lessons long before pointe shoes. Had her life started in Gliwice, she’d still be in Gliwice. The girls down the road in Bytom had no ballet lessons. The children in Bytom had the Catholic Church. The boys were groomed for the priesthood, the girls the convent. Karina might have become a nun had she grown up in Bytom. Her parents would’ve been so proud. Maybe her life would be content and honorable had she chosen God. But her life was never really a choice. She grew up in Zabrze, and in Zabrze lived Mr. Borowitz, the town’s piano teacher. He didn’t have a prestigious pedigree like Miss Gosia’s or a professional studio. Lessons were taught in his living room, which reeked of cat piss, yellowing books, and cigarettes. But Mr. Borowitz was a fine teacher. He was dedicated, stern but encouraging, and most important, he taught every one of his pupils to play Chopin. In Poland, Chopin is as revered as Pope John Paul II and God. Poland’s Holy Trinity. Karina wasn’t born with the lithe body of a ballerina, but she was graced with the strong arms and long fingers of a pianist. She still remembers her first lesson with Mr. Borowitz. She was five. The glossy keys, the immediacy of pleasing sound, the story of the notes told by her fingers. She took to it instantly. Unlike most children, she never had to be ordered to practice. Quite the opposite, she had to be told to stop. Stop playing, and do your homework. Stop playing, and set the dinner table. Stop playing, it’s time for bed. She couldn’t resist playing. She still can’t. Ultimately, piano became her ticket out of oppressive Poland, to Curtis and America and everything after. Everything after. That single decision—to learn piano—set everything that was to follow in motion, the ball in her life’s Rube Goldberg machine. She wouldn’t be here, right now, attending Hannah Chu’s graduation party, had she never played piano. She parks her Honda behind a Mercedes, the last in a conga line of cars along the side of the road at least three blocks from Hannah’s house, assuming this is the closest she’ll get. She checks the clock on the dash. She’s a half hour late. Good. She’ll make a brief appearance, offer her congratulations, and leave. Her heels click against the street as she walks, a human metronome, and her thoughts continue in pace with this rhythm. Without piano, she would never have met Richard. What would her life be like had she never met him? How many hours has she spent indulging in this fantasy? If added up, the hours would accumulate into days and weeks, possibly more. More time wasted. What could’ve been. What will never be. Maybe she would’ve been satisfied had she never left her home country to pursue piano. She’d still be living with her parents, sleeping in her childhood bedroom. Or she’d be married to a boring man from Zabrze, a coal miner who earns a hard but respectable living, and she’d be a homemaker, raising their five children. Both wretched scenarios appeal to her now for a commonality she hates to acknowledge: a lack of loneliness. Or what if she had attended Eastman instead of Curtis? She almost did. That single, arbitrary choice. She would never have met Richard. She would never have taken a step back, assuming with the arrogant and immortal optimism of a twenty-five-year-old that she’d have another chance, that the Wheel of Fortune’s spin would once again tick to a stop with its almighty arrow pointing directly at her. She’d waited years for another turn. Sometimes life gives you only one. But then, if she’d never met Richard, their daughter, Grace, wouldn’t be here. Karina imagines an alternative reality in which her only daughter was never conceived and catches herself enjoying the variation almost to the point of wishing for it. She scolds herself, ashamed for allowing such a horrible thought. She loves Grace more than anything else. But the truth is, having Grace was another critical, fork-in-the-road, Gliwice-versus-Bytom-versus-Zabrze moment. Left brought Grace and tied Karina to Richard, the rope tight around her neck like a leash or a noose, depending on the day, for the next seventeen years. Right was the path not chosen. Who knows where that might’ve led? Regret shadows her every step, a dog at her heels, as she now follows the winding stone path into the Chu family’s backyard. Hannah was accepted to Notre Dame, her first choice. Another piano student off to college. Hannah won’t continue with piano there. Like most of Karina’s students, Hannah took lessons because she wanted to add “plays piano” to her college application. The parents have the same motive, often exponentially more intense and unapologetic. So Hannah went through the motions, and their weekly half hour together was a soulless chore for both student and teacher. A rare few of Karina’s students authentically like playing, and a couple even have talent and potential, but none of them love it enough to pursue it. You have to love it. She can’t blame them. These kids are all overscheduled, stressed-out, and too focused on getting into “the best” college to allow the nourishment passion needs to grow. A flower doesn’t blossom from a seed without the persistent love of sun and water. But Hannah isn’t just one of Karina’s piano students. Hannah was Grace’s closest friend from the age of six through middle school. Playdates, sleepovers, Girl Scouts, soccer, trips to the mall and the movies—for most of Grace’s childhood, Hannah was like a younger sister. When Grace moved up to the high school and Hannah remained in middle school, the girls migrated naturally into older and younger social circles. There was never a falling-out. Instead, the friends endured a passive drifting on calm currents to separate but neighboring islands. They visited from time to time. Hannah’s graduation milestone shouldn’t mean much to Karina, but it feels monumental, as if she’s sustaining a bigger loss than another matriculated piano student. It trips the switch of memories from this time last year, and it’s the end of Grace’s childhood all over again. Karina leaves her card for Hannah on the gift table and sighs. Even though Hannah’s at the far end of the expansive backyard, Karina spots her straightaway, standing on the edge of the diving board, laughing, a line of wet girls and boys behind her, mostly boys in the pool, cheering her name, goading her to do something. Karina waits to see what it will be. Hannah launches into the air and cannonballs into the water, splashing the parents gathered near the pool. The parents complain, wiping water from their arms and faces, but they’re smiling. It’s a hot day, and the momentary spray probably felt refreshing. Karina notices Hannah’s mom, Pam, among them. Now that Hannah is moving to Indiana, Karina assumes she won’t see Pam at all anymore. They stopped their Thursday-night wine dates some time ago, not long after Grace started high school. Over the past couple of years, their friendship dwindled to the handful of unfulfilling moments before or after Hannah’s weekly piano lesson. Tasked with shuttling her three kids to and from a dizzying schedule of extracurricular activities all over town, Pam was often too rushed to even come inside and waited for Hannah in her running car. Karina waved to her from the front door every Tuesday at 5:30 as Pam pulled away. Karina almost didn’t come today. She feels self-conscious about showing up alone. Naturally introverted, she’d been extremely private about her marriage and even more shut-in about her divorce. Assuming Richard didn’t air their dirty laundry either, and that’s a safe bet, no one knows the details. So the gossip mill scripted the drama it wasn’t supplied. Someone has to be right, and someone has to be wrong. Based on the hushed stares, vanished chitchat, and pulled plastic smiles, Karina knows how she’s been cast. The women in particular sympathize with him. Of course they do. They paint him as a sainted celebrity. He deserves to be with someone more elegant, someone who appreciates how extraordinary he is, someone more his equal. They assume she’s jealous of his accomplishments, resentful of his acclaim, bitter about his fame. She’s nothing but a rinky-dink suburban piano teacher instructing disinterested sixteen-year-olds on how to play Chopin. She clearly doesn’t have the self-esteem to be the wife of such a great man. They don’t know. They don’t know a damn thing. Grace just finished her freshman year at the University of Chicago. Karina had anticipated that Grace would be home for the summer by now and would be at Hannah’s party, but Grace decided to stay on campus through the summer, interning on a project with her math professor. Something about statistics. Karina’s proud of her daughter for being selected for the internship and thinks it’s a great opportunity, and yet, there’s that pang in Karina’s stomach, the familiar letdown. Grace could’ve chosen to come home, to spend the summer with her mother, but she didn’t. Karina knows it’s ridiculous to feel slighted, forsaken even, but her emotions sit on the throne of her intellect. This is how she’s built, and like any castle, her foundational stones aren’t easily rearranged. Her divorce became absolute in September of Grace’s senior year, and exactly one year later, Grace moved a thousand miles away. First Richard left. Then Grace. Karina wonders when she’ll get used to the silence in her home, the emptiness, the memories that hang in each room as real as the artwork on the walls. She misses her daughter’s voice chatting on the phone; her giggling girlfriends; her shoes in every room; her hair elastics, towels, and clothes on the floor; the lights left on. She misses her daughter. She does not miss Richard. When he moved out, his absence felt more like a new presence than a subtraction. The sweet calm that took up residence after he left filled more space than his human form and colossal ego ever did. She did not miss him then or now. But going to these kinds of family events alone, without a husband, tilts her off-balance as if she were one cheek atop a two-legged stool. So in that sense, she misses him. For the stability. She’s forty-five and divorced. Single. In Poland, she’d be considered a disgrace. But she’s been in America now for over half her life. Her situation is common in this secular culture and imposes no shame. Yet, she feels ashamed. You can take the girl out of Poland, but you can’t take Poland out of the girl. Not recognizing any of the other parents, she takes a deep breath and begins the long, awkward walk alone over to Pam. Karina spent an absurdly long time getting ready for this party. Which dress, which shoes, which earrings? She blew out her hair. She even got a manicure yesterday. For what? It’s not as if she’s trying to impress Hannah or Pam or any of the parents. And it’s not as if there will be any single men here, not that she’s looking for a man anyway. She knows why. She’ll be damned if anyone here looks at her and thinks, Poor Karina. Her life’s a mess, and she looks it, too. The other reason is Richard. Pam and Scott Chu are his friends, too. Richard was probably invited. She could’ve asked Pam if Richard was on the guest list—not that it mattered, just to be forewarned—but she chickened out. So there it is, the stomach-turning possibility that he might be here, and the even more putrid thought that he might show up with the latest skinny little twentysomething tart hanging on his arm and every self-important word. Karina rubs her lips together, making sure her lipstick hasn’t clumped. Her eyes poke around the yard. He’s not standing with Pam and the cluster of parents by the pool house. Karina scans the pool, the grilling island, the lawn. She doesn’t see him. She arrives at the pool house and inserts herself into the circle of Pam and Scott and other parents. Their voices instantly drop, their eyes conspiring. Time pauses. “Hey, what’s going on?” Karina asks. The circle looks to Pam. “Um . . .” Pam hesitates. “We were just talking about Richard.” “Oh?” Karina waits, her heart bracing for something humiliating. No one says a word. “What about him?” “He canceled his tour.” “Oh.” This isn’t earth-shattering news. He’s canceled gigs and touring dates before. Once, he couldn’t stand the conductor and refused to set foot onstage with him. Another time, Richard had to be replaced last minute because he got drunk at an airport bar and missed his flight. She wonders what reason he has this time. But Pam and Scott and the others stare at her with grave expressions, as if she should have something more compassionate to say on the subject. Her stomach floods with emotion, her inner streets crowding fast as a fervent protest stands upon its soapbox in her center, outraged that she has to deal with this, that Pam especially can’t be more sensitive to her. Richard’s canceled tour isn’t her concern. She divorced him. His life isn’t her problem anymore. “You really don’t know?” asks Pam. They all wait for her answer, lips shut, bodies still, an audience engrossed in watching a play. “What? What, is he dying or something?” A nervous half-laugh escapes her, and the sound finds no harmony. She searches the circle of parents for connection, even if the comment was slightly inappropriate, for someone to forgive her a bit of dark humor. But everyone either looks horrified or away. Everyone but Pam. Her eyes betray a reluctant nod. “Karina, he has ALS.”