What Alice Forgot (2011) is the third book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty. I’ve enjoyed all of them, although Big Little Lies is still my favorite. The premise for this one was…perhaps a little unrealistic, but very intriguing, putting it in a strong second on my list of favorite Moriarty books.
Alice wakes up on the floor of a spin class. She’s told that she’s fallen and was knocked out. Alice doesn’t understand why she’s in a gym, and she doesn’t know half the people calling out to her as she’s wheeled out to the ambulance. What Alice soon discovers is that she’s lost ten years of her memory. She thinks and feels like her 29-year-old self, happily married to Nick, and expecting her first child. Instead, she’s 39, on the precipice of divorce, and the mother to three children that she cannot remember.
Moriarty did a very good job putting us in Alice’s shoes as she discovers how much her life has changed and how much she doesn’t remember. Her first telephone conversation with Nick, before she understands the situation is heartbreaking. The entire relationship between Alice and Nick was fascinating–to see how two people could turn from such strong love to such strong hate. And some of Alice’s interactions with her children made me laugh out loud. She had no idea what to do with these three rambunctious strangers running amok in her glorious house.
It did make me wonder, and almost scare me, that Alice changed so drastically in ten years. Sure, people have kids, and marriages fall apart everyday. But Alice became bitter, controlling, and kind of nasty. Her relationship with many friends as well as her sister had deteriorated drastically. Moriarty explained these changes through the pressures of Alice’s life, and her relationship with her neighbor Gina. However, I took it as a kind of warning: don’t lose yourself by chasing too hard after society’s ideals.
I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if I suddenly lost the last ten years of my life. No children strangers, fortunately. And I’m also single and not in the middle of a break-up. I guess there would be the potential of running into exes I don’t remember, but that sounds like a plus to me. When I was 26, I had recently graduated law school, and started my first legal job. I would have woken up to discover that I was a firefighter. I wonder what my younger self would make of that. I’d probably be excited, but going to work would be an intimidating nightmare.
Anyway, Moriarty tied in two other story lines involving Alice’s sister and her grandmother. While I did enjoy these characters, I was always more interested in Alice’s story line, so the novel ended up feeling slightly uneven. Also, I felt like Alice’s lack of knowledge was drawn out too long for narrative purposes. It would have taken her sister two minutes to explain the basics, but instead Alice wallows around in ignorance for almost the entire book. It kept me, as the reader, on the edge of my seat as I figured out Alice’s life, but it also frustrating and unrealistic. On the whole, though, this was an entertaining and engaging book. I enjoyed it.
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