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What Alice Forgot Hardcover – June 2, 2011
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“I loved this book. It has, for me, everything that makes a good novel excellent.” —Jeanne Ray
“Funny and knowing…[about] what we choose to remember, and fight to forget.” —O magazine
About the Author
Liane Moriarty is the author of two novels, Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary, both of which were published around the world and translated into seven languages. She is also the author of the Nicola Berry series for children. Moriarty lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.
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What really made the book for me though was Alice's realisation that her 39-year-old self wasn't a nice person at all. She was nothing like the 29-year-old free spirit, in fact she was the total opposite. So it was easy to see how Alice and Nick's relationship disintegrated. Alice turned into a total control freak, it seemed, and it just tore them apart. The ever-mysterious Gina certainly didn't help Nick and Alice's marriage and I was stunned at just how ferocious Nick was the first time he and Alice talked after her accident. It was clear that something had gone seriously wrong in Alice's life, something that caused her to become uptight, to argue with her husband and to practically lose contact with her beloved sister. All is revealed but not quickly. No where near quicky, in fact. A flashback or a loose mention of a name awakens something in Alice's memory and so we learn a tid-bit of Alice's life as it is now but never enough to truly hold on to. It was a very clever way of letting us all know what had happened and it certainly kept me reading.
The book is told in third-person, which I wasn't expecting, but it works well so it wasn't a problem. It's all from Alice's point of view, too. But as well as the usual narrative, there are also diary/journal type entries from Elisabeth, which confused me at first, but it soon makes sense, as well as blog entries from Frannie. All three women are experiencing troubles, some more serious than others and it was interesting to get their take on things. I particularly enjoyed Elisabeth's diary entries, they were insightful. Overall I really loved What Alice Forgot, it is certainly one of the better amnesia stories out there and I hugely enjoyed all of the 496 pages. I hugely recommend you pick this one up, as you won't regret it.
That said, the author did a good job with authentic details and dialogue, and I wanted to keep reading to find out how the ending would be resolved. Three and a half stars.
Alice wakes up on the floor of a gym unable to figure out just exactly how she got there. It becomes apparent that she fell off her bike during spin class, bumped her head rather hard, and awoke to find herself being rushed off to the hospital by a couple of handsome paramedics, while people she does not know call out to her and wish her well. Poor Alice becomes more and more confused at the doctor's insistence that it is a different year from the one she knows it is, at the inexplicable workout clothing she's wearing, at the disturbing lack of an appearance on her husband's part. What she doesn't want to accept--but what seems to have actually happened--is she lost the last ten years of her life when she bumped her head. And unspeakable changes have taken place in Alice's life in those last ten years. She and her devoted sister Elizabeth have somehow grown apart. Very far apart indeed. Her best friend is consumed with work and sounds actually shocked when Alice calls her to say hi. Her mother has changed inside and out and has taken up with a man she would never have pictured her mother with, not in a thousand years. And, worst of all, she and her husband Nick have split up and are in the midst of a messy custody battle over their three kids. Three kids they didn't even have when Alice last remembers. She was just barely pregnant with their first back then, and she (understandably) finds it unfathomable that that tiny unborn baby is now a 10-year-old girl who is angry at the world because her parents are divorcing. Desperate to find her way back home, Alice sets about trying to pick up the reins of a life she finds utterly alien.
You know how you can become so involved in a book that you actually feel anxiety on behalf of the characters? Your shoulders tense up, your brow furrows, and you turn the pages with trepidation for fear what follows will be more than they can bear. That feeling is nothing new to me. And it's usually the mark of a story I'm enjoying immensely. But do you ever read a book that fills you with anxiety on your own behalf? And your concern and the tension in your shoulders and brow are for the characters, certainly, but even more for yourself. And you're up at night imagining the ways in which your life might fall apart were something similar to happen to you. Yeah. WHAT ALICE FORGOT filled me with anxiety. I was up at night (granted I was up anyway with a baby). But even when I stopped reading I couldn't turn off the anxiety of ten years lost. Of a husband you loved yesterday who absolutely hates your guts today. Of having been on the brink of motherhood for the very first time and then being thrust forward into a franticly speedy life full of taking care of little people you've never met before. And doing it all alone. My post-pregnancy hormones may have been completely out of whack but wow. This book did not help. Not one little bit. That said, I couldn't put it down. I immediately felt an affinity for Alice and wanted so very much for her to be able to put the pieces of her fragmented memory together along with the shattered pieces of her fragmented family. Cue the pain I was talking about earlier. And the humor as well. Twenty-nine-year-old Alice is a delightful woman, with a great sense of humor and a love for laughter and life. Her observances on the ridiculous predicament she finds herself in are chuckle-worthy and spot-on. Thirty-nine-year-old Alice is a different creature entirely. She is extremely difficult to like. And Ms. Moriarty does a wonderful job of making each supporting character sympathetic, especially Alice's once-carefree and charming husband Nick and her now-careworn and bitter older sister Elizabeth. I loved them all and wanted to wrap my arms around them and just hug them into loving each other again. Of course, it's nowhere near that easy. Unfortunately, the story takes its incredibly sweet time getting around to anything happening, to Alice solving the mystery of her past and actively trying to form her future into one she can live with. She was such a strong character, I thought her perfectly capable of doing just that. And Nick was a fascinating and complicated character in his own right, but we rarely saw him in the present. There were quite a few reminiscences of him ten years ago, but the scenes in which Alice and Nick of today actually communicate are few and far between. As they were my favorites and were so well done, I really wished there were more. In fact, I needed a few more to make the ending truly satisfactory. As it was, it felt abrupt after the lengthy path it took to get there. So overall, a very absorbing read that fell somewhat short for me in its pacing and final execution. For similar and enjoyable reads, I recommend Bachelor Boys by Kate Saunders andSeeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer.