While What Alice Forgot was not quite as compelling as the first book I read by Liane Moriarty — Big Little Lies — but the writing was excellent and Moriarty does a good job of teasing the reader, up until the end, with the mystery of “Gina”, and what caused the falling out between Alice and Nick.
“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
So basically, the titular Alice falls and bumps her head in spin class one day. When she comes to, she’s convinced that it’s 1998, and she’s 29 and pregnant with her first child. In reality, it’s 2008, she’s undergoing a vitriolic divorce and is dating the principle at the school her three children attend. She remembers none of this — the kids, why she’s getting divorced, why she’s suddenly a gym and health nut — nothing. She tries to figure out why, and what happened, while still feeling like she’s in love with a husband who’s convinced that she’ll begin to despise him again the moment her memory returns.
Moriarty weaves quite a few plotlines together, without ever really dropping any threads. Alice and her husband, of course, as well as the part that a woman named Gina played in their marriage (and subsequent divorce). Alice’s sister, Elizabeth, has been struggling with infertility for years, and has changed significantly since Alice last remembers her. And their honorary grandma has a storyline of her own, concerning long-lost loves and new beginnings.
What Alice Forgot has that mystery of “what happened to Nick and Alice?”, but overall it’s a very straightforward look at a person’s life, and how much can change (without one knowing) over the span of 10 years. It would have been less effective had it been more thrilling — instead, it’s subtle and thought-provoking.