Monday, October 8, 2012

What Alice Forgot--a review

By Pamela

It's the age-old interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years? Or, we might even ask of ourselves: Where do I want to be in ten? What we never consider is: What would today be like if I had no memory of the last ten years of my life? In What Alice Forgot we meet Alice as she's just suffered a nasty fall off a stationary bike during a spinning class. Here's what the author, Liane Moriarty, who is Australian, writes about the story's premise:

I had always wanted to write a story about time travel but I found the logistics made my head explode. Then I read a story about a woman in the UK who lost her memory and behaved like a teenager--she didn’t recognise her husband or children. I realized that memory loss is a form of time travel. So I came up with the idea of a woman, Alice, who loses 10 years of her memory. She thinks she is 29, pregnant with her first child and blissfully in love with her husband. She is horrified to discover she is 39, with three children and in the middle of a terrible divorce. It’s like the younger Alice has travelled forward in time. 

I read the book because it was selected for my book club this month and admit I found myself a little bogged down with the pacing in the beginning. The first half of the book covers the day Alice fell and the day following. We meet an intriguing cast of characters including Alice's sister, her mother and some of her friends, but not until much later in the book does she encounter her husband and her children. And what a frightening thought! To think you have three children of whom you have no memory!

That concern aside, once I got into the heart of the story and walked with Alice--as she tried to piece together how she went from a happy-go-lucky, much-in-love, soon-to-be mother to an about-to-be-divorced, over-involved mother of three whom people both admired and feared--I was enraptured by this woman's journey. 

Moriarty writes Alice's story from only Alice's POV (in third-person), but we hear her sister's perspective through journal entries and her grandmother's perspective through letters. But it's the author's handling of the marriage, through the scenes with Alice and her husband, Nick, that kept me turning the page. Moriarty's ear for dialog and her sense of humor is enviable, to say the least. 

My friend who selected the book pitched it as a 'light, fun read' but I beg to differ. Yes, the story was fun because it was quite hilarious in spots, but it's also the kind of story that feels much weightier. It's a story that gives you pause and causes you take stock in your own life and makes you wonder that if you had the chance to see yourself ten years from now, would you like the person you'd become? And would you try hard to change that outcome? 

I encourage you to read What Alice Forgot to find out what Alice did eventually do with her life. No spoilers here! 

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