Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What's more, she's looking forward to the birth of the 'Sultana' - her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone's telling her she's misplaced the last ten years of her life.  In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she's his worst enemy. What's more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her either. And who is this 'Gina'everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?   Alice isn't sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn't have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband for ever?

And here's what I thought: 
I had checked this book out from the library because it sounded interesting.  I had been expecting a somewhat light read, and was surprised that several times, I found myself closing the book and just reflecting on something that was happening in the story.   There's a lot here beyond Alice and her memory loss -- there's relationships that have been changed by the person she's become over 10 years, not just with friends, but with family, as well.   Her relationship with her sister is especially brittle, and throughout this story, we get Alice's sister's perspective -- which is fascinating.

It's an interesting idea -- that Alice hits her head and loses the last ten years of her life.   What's really interesting is that somehow, in 10 years, Alice has transformed into a completely different person that she used to be.  That much is clear -- when she thinks she's only 29, she's actually a pretty nice person .... and from the reactions of the people around her, in reality, at age 39, she's really not.

The story progresses with Alice learning about herself from her sister, her mother, her soon-to-be ex-husband, and others.  It's a cool way to develop a character, especially one who thinks she knows who she is, and who is coming up against completely different perceptions of her.   Talk about self-discovery.   In addition to trying to remember the last ten years of marriage and children, Alice also realizes that she wants to somehow fix some of what has happened ... which is tricky, considering she needs to keep asking her sister (who really doesn't seem to like her) and other people about the past.    She's a likeable person as she sees herself now (as age 29), but as her real self, at 39, she doesn't seem very nice --- which makes getting to know her as a character a bit of an exercise. 

I enjoyed this story, and found that it made me think about what I would do in a similar situation.  I don't have children that I would have forgotten, but I would definitely have a career change .... and when I think about how stressed I was at my job 10 years ago?   So glad that's in the past.    Definitely a thought-provoking and enjoyable story.

First sentences:   She was floating, arms outspread, water lapping her body, breathing in a summery fragrance of salt and coconut. There was a pleasantly satisfied breakfast taste in her mouth of bacon and coffee and possibly croissants."

Thoughts on the cover:  I chose a cover that's different from the one I read because I like it better.  You can see the other cover art over at GoodReads --- it's a basic red with some cutouts (which my library book obscured somewhat).   This cover seems a bit more personal, which I felt suited the story a bit better.


Anonymous said...

Oh this sounds like a good book. I guess it shows time changes everything. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting, am adding it to my wishlist, thanks for the review

Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting. Going to have to check it out!

Anonymous said...

This was a good read.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I love this cover. Good choice. I'm mystified and intrigued by the concept of this book. Great review.

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