What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, published 2010 by Penguin.
Read: July 2015
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: Alice Love is 29, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. Imagine Alice’s surprise when she wakes up on the floor of a gym (a gym! She hates the gym!) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over – she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old.
Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how she’s become one of those skinny mums with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.
I read this book around the same time as Still Alice, which upon reflection, was probably a mistake. While the two books have very different tones and narrators, they do both deal with memory loss (for different reasons), and obviously both have a protagonist called Alice. I would have spaced these reads out, but I’m a mood reader, and my mood wanted to read them. What Alice Forgot wasn’t quite what I was expecting – Liane Moriarty’s writing has been getting a lot of hype in recent years, and that, mixed with this book’s blurb, meant I was expecting something in the vein of Diane Chamberlain or Jodi Picoult. What I got instead, was a book that incorporated deeper themes such as death, divorce, and infertility, but told in a “chick-lit” style with humour peppered throughout.
What Alice Forgot is told in the third person, but also includes snippets from the diary of the MC’s sister, Elisabeth, and blog entries from the MC’s quasi-grandmother, Frannie (I loved these). Frannie definitely reminded me of Bridget Jones’ mother from the movie, and her chapters often provided some welcome relief from the heaviness of the novel. As Elisabeth reminisces on events that Alice can no longer remember, she helps add to the mystery of the novel, as we try to piece the missing ten years together along with Alice.
Moriarty’s characters are very well developed, and generally I found that this book was well written, with some serious laugh-out-loud material. However, 29 year old Alice was such a hopeful and bright character in comparison to her rigid and cynical 39 year old self, that it was hard not to become depressed while reading the book. I think cynicism can offer some form of romantic protection, and I find I try to remain realistic, but really there’s a hopeless romantic in me screaming to be let out. To witness the often painful demise of this once happy and beautiful relationship, three kids and ten years later, practically had me in tears. While I definitely didn’t enjoy this aspect of the book, I found that it was a realistic portrayal of how time does change people – of how important our experiences and memories are to the person we become, and how it’s impossible to go back to the person we once were. While there is plenty of humour in the novel, and plenty of arcing story-lines to keep you entertained (like the three kids Alice can’t remember having!), for me there was just an overwhelming feeling of sadness that I couldn’t shake.
I do feel What Alice Forgot was longer than necessary, and at times I became frustrated by the length, but it was a very insightful novel that really makes the reader think of their own life – what would the you from 10 years ago make of your life now? If you woke up 10 years from now what would you make of your future self? A chick-lit style novel that inspires much deeper thinking is OK with me.
Have you read What Alice Forgot, or would you recommend any other books by Moriarty? Let me know in the comments.