What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

This is my new favorite book to recommend to people, and I’ll be passing along this prepub to many.  I anticipate it will be popular this summer, it’s being touted on the back cover (already?!) as the “smart woman’s beach read.” What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Anyway, the basic premise is that Alice is a 28 year old woman in Australia, married to Nick, whom she madly loves, and they are deliriously happy renovating their big old house and expecting their first baby. But then Alice regains consciousness.  She doesn’t recognize the people around her, is shocked that she in a gym (what’s a spin class??), and is very puzzled. Her sister meets her at the hospital (why is she fatter and looks unhappy??) and it turns out that it is 2008 and Alice is 38.  A bump on the head has made her forget the past 10 years of her life.  Turns out that Alice has three children now and is, shock!, getting a divorce from the beloved Nick. What the what?! Alice is completely shocked by all this, finds it hard to believe, and is overwhelmed by her life and her discoveries of how it has all turned out.
What is so great about this book is Alice’s perceptions of everyone without having the background of events and feelings that have led to situations or people being the way they are.  The obvious example is her husband, who she sees with the same joy and love in her heart that she felt 10 years ago.  She is seeing her family and the world with an almost childlike sense of wonder (and a few very funny bits are quick references to her puzzling over new-to-her vocabulary like “texts”, “Google”, and “spin class.”) Alice’s naivete in believing her relationships with friends and family are the same is at once a blessing and a curse.  In many ways she is getting a fresh start with people and her cluelessness makes it easy for her to say to people “why are we like this? what happened?”.  She also responds to things as 28 year old Alice would-with compassion, sweetness, and enthusiasm.  She senses from people’s reactions to this that perhaps 38 year old Alice is a person she wouldn’t like herself and wonders what on earth she turned into and how she got there.

Although there were many sad bits, and really I found the premise so deeply sad, this was not a sad book. It was thoughtful and emotional, with a fair amount of humor in it.  I truly was not certain how it would end until I finished reading the epilogue (Lord knows I love an epilogue.)

I’ve come away from this book feeling I’ve learned two things:

1. If I ever have amnesia to be perfectly clear with people exactly how much I don’t remember. I couldn’t believe how easily she was released from the hospital and left on her own (with children she doesn’t remember!!) without assistance.

2. To make sure I don’t turn into a future Alice!

And finally, another note on the actual structure of the book.  Although it is told primarily from Alice’s point of view, at times the story also unfolds via the use of the letters to a long dead fiancee, journal entries written by her sister Elisabeth, and the past memories Alice has up until her accident.  All these read together build a cohesive world.

A really wonderful story and absolutely by coincidence my mom handed me a book the other day she thought I might like and it turns out to be by the same author! I’ll be reading that very soon..

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2 thoughts on “What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

  1. Will definitely have to look this one up — thanks!

    I sometimes think of Jodi Picoult’s books as “smart beach reads”, so I felt like I knew exactly what that blurb meant. :-)

  2. Loved it! Great “surprise” ending, also! Thanks for the great recommendation! I will return the book to you so you can pass it on…

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