Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note PlayedTitle: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Scout Press
Date published: March 20th 2018
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 307

Rating: 4/5

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.


Raw and poignant, Lisa Genova creates a beautiful story about redemption and forgiveness.

A piano’s worst nightmare; to never play again.

That’s what sets off the storyline as Richard finds out that he has ALS. Karina, her ex-wife soon decides to visit him and agrees to help him. During this journey, they both reflect on their lives and career and wonder what had led their relationship astray.

The writing is absolutely raw and beautiful. I was in awe of the descriptions and imagery that Lisa Genova painted as she wrote. It makes you feel like you’re in the scene watching what’s going on, feeling what they’re feeling. And strangely enough, you also feel and hear the music. Because this story focuses around two passionate pianists, the motif of music and the piano resonates strongly throughout. And it was just an absolute joy to read. I found myself slowing down to take in every word, every moment.

This book is very much character driven as you explore the thoughts of the two main characters, Karina and Richard, and watch their evolution through the stages of Richard’s illness.

The authenticity of the characters is what really stuck with me. There was no perfect character. Karina and Richard are both flawed in their own ways; there was no enemy, no hero. They were both the protagonist and antagonist of the story. And I think it really made the whole thing seem so much more real as we watch both of them combat their own demons and try to make amends.

On a technical level, I learned so much about the illness, ALS, while reading this book. Yes, I did read Tuesdays with Morrie. Yes, I did watch The Theory of Everything. But the amount of research put into Every Note Played is applaudable. While I can’t say I can fully relate to the struggles and pains of the families affected by ALS, I hope I can say that I finally recognize the toll that comes with the illness. I believe it’s books like these are what emphasize the idea of seeing through different perspectives and gaining empathy for others.

Every Note Played is a heartbreaking story about a family affected by ALS as they try to piece everything back together before it’s too late. Every line is so beautifully written and so carefully thought out, and if makes you feel the characters in every action.


I’m definitely glad I picked up this book. Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

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