"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


Una Vida - - An Alzheimer's Book About Memory, Hope and New Orleans
By Carrie Hill, PhD, About.com
Updated: November 20, 2008

About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Una Vida is an interesting mix of neuroscience and New Orleans history.

The Bottom Line

Una Vida — A Fable of Music and the Mind is a unique book about Alzheimer's disease, memory, hope and the cultural history of New Orleans. Nicolas Bazan, MD, one of the world's premier neuroscientists, wrote this novel in such a way that combines his knowledge of the brain with his love of jazz music and the foods and culture of his home city.


Written by one of the world's premier neuroscientists
Endorsed by two Nobel Laureates in Medicine/Physiology
The author's sincerity shines through his writing.


Neuroscientific explanations do not always blend well with the narrative.
Some lengthy passages may seem to serve the writer more than the reader.


Published by Five Star Publications, Inc., in Chandler, Ariz.
218 pages, including a prologue and acknowledgements.
Una Vida — A Fable of Music and the Mind is Bazan's first novel.

Guide Review - Una Vida -- An Alzheimer's Book About Memory, Hope and New Orleans

Bazan dedicated his novel to "all the minds silenced by Alzheimer's." I'm convinced of his sincerity: Bazan is committed to discovering the mysteries of the brain, including what causes Alzheimer's and how we can cure or prevent it. Through his writing, it's obvious that he respects the dignity of every person and believes that those with Alzheimer's have much to teach us. I wholeheartedly agree.

Bazan also loves New Orleans, the setting of his book and the city he's called home for more than 25 years. His descriptions of New Orleans' food, history and jazz culture create a unique backdrop for the story.

The title refers to a homeless woman with Alzheimer's known only as Una Vida, meaning "one life" in Spanish. The book's main character, a neuroscientist named Alvaro Cruz, meets Una Vida and feels compelled to help her because of disturbing dreams and the guilt he feels over not being there for his mother, who died of the same disease. The story follows Cruz as he tries to unravel the mystery of Una Vida, while dealing with his own personal demons.

The premise is interesting, and Bazan's sincerity shines through his writing. Still, fiction lovers should note that this is Bazan's first novel, which creates some weaknesses in the writing. The beginning is mostly background and reads like part neuroscience lecture, part biography. Throughout the story, scientific interpretations are not woven seamlessly in to the narrative, making it a bit uneven. I felt as though Bazan was trying to bring the reader in to his world as a neuroscientist in New Orleans, but in the end, he was more excited about this scenario than the reader.

Still, Una Vida is a sweet story that reveals Bazan's message of hope for families dealing with Alzheimer's. We are fortunate to have such a gifted neuroscientist so dedicated to finding a cure.


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