Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

Summary:  Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, and her life is soft, slow, and sweet.  She's unfailingly optimistic, and keen on sleeping in and eating anything with chocolate in it, and above all, she adores her husband, Nick.  They're expecting their first baby, who at the moment is the size of a raisin (they call her the Sultana) and to whom Nick speaks nightly through an empty toilet paper roll held right up against Alice's belly. Alice and Nick plan to spend the rest of their lives working on the ramshackle house they just bought, with the goal of completing the list of projects (they call it The Impossible Dream) sometime shortly before they die.

So imagine Alice's surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and is whisked off to the hospital.  Her first concern is her baby, and she's desperate to see Nick, who she knows will be worried about her.  But Alice isn't pregnant and Nick isn't worried.

Turns out, Alice is, in fact, thirty-nine, has three children, and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick.  Her ramshackle home is instead picture-perfect from top to bottom, and it's clear that she inhabits a body that doesn't indulge in chocolate often (or ever).  The knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes life ten years later.  With a decade of memories gone for the time being, she has to piece together what has happened and who she has become.  In the end, it turns out that forgetting may be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to her.  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  A little over a year ago, Ashley reviewed this book.  You can read her review here.  Her review is the reason I picked up this book in the first place, and now that I've finished reading it, I can say we seem to be on the same page about it. Still, I've committed to reviewing every book I read, so I'm going to share my thoughts.  Briefly.

What Alice Forgot had such an engaging premise that I was pulled into Alice's shoes right away.  What would I do if I woke up without my memories for the last ten years?!  What might that be like?!  The book switches between the perspectives of three different women:  Alice the amnesiac, her sister Elizabeth's therapy journals, and their honorary grandmother Frannie's letters to a paramour.  Each woman had their own story that bled into and enriched the others: Alice, trying to piece together the past ten years; Elizabeth, struggling with infertility and the stress on her marriage; and Frannie, being pestered by a fellow resident at her retirement community.  It all flowed together quite nicely and made for an interesting, easy read -- definitely beach worthy, ski-lodge worthy, or wherever your happy place might happen to be.

Aside from the creative story lines, my favorite thing about this book was that it can be read one of two ways: a) casually, skimming the surface and enjoying the ride or b) pulled apart and mulled over in a book club.  I read it casually (I don't belong to a book club) but I bet this book would cause quite the stir, as it actually manages to have surprising depth.  Be it motherhood, divorce, infertility, marriage, family dynamics, friendship, etc. there is plenty for a reading group to chew on.  I will say that, in regards to some of these issues, the different perspectives voice some painful personal truths that women may often think but not say out loud.  Some might be horrified by that kind of honestly, but I found it refreshing and the book felt all the more real for it.  I know that I related to some aspects of the book more than others, but have friends that would relate to the book on an entirely different level in a different way.  It would be interesting to hash it out.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I flat out needed to read a book I could engage with and finish quickly and this fit the bill quite nicely.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something satisfying that is not bothered by the stuff in our "for the sensitive reader" section.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Occasional swearing. Some brief, vague discussion of sex,nothing graphic.  Elizabeth's story line could be a trigger for those struggling with (or who have struggled with) infertility.  This isn't an issue I am personally familiar with, so I can't say.  It's also possible they might find relief in a character who has similar struggles.  I am not sure.  Proceed with caution. 

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