What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I waited and waited for this book! I put it on hold at the library because I am so enamored by Liane Morarty's writing style after reading "The Husband's Secret."
What did Alice forget? This is a thought provoking story about Alice that pushed me to reflect on what how I would view my world if I forgot ten years of my life. Or twenty years. A little over 19 years ago, I was where Alice was, pregnant with my first child and looking toward my 30th birthday. Ten years later, I was, again, where Alice was. Mother to three small children and marriage was vastly different from the first few years.
So Alice falls at the gym and wakes up with the past ten years completely forgotten. Besides a slight concussion, Alice is physically fine. But everybody is ten years older and much has happened in the past ten years. She is to go home to what was a fixer-upper - all finished and beautiful. She is in the middle of an acrimonious divorce to the love of her life and he can't stand her. He will be dropping off the children (who she doesn't know at all) in another day or two. She and her sister have grown apart and her mother has changed and remarried.
The book delves into different perspectives. Young Alice was optimistic, hopeful, and introverted. Older Alice is more jaded but assertive. Young Alice thinks in simplistic, problem solving terms. Older Alice is more laden with the emotional baggage of the past ten years. Both versions have their strong points. Neither is right nor wrong. They are simply seeing things from different perspectives.
The book reminds me of another book, "Love Water Memory." I think that's what it is called. I hope I am not revealing a spoiler for that book which has the same premise with the protagonist "waking up" and finding herself in a different place and time than she last remembers. Both protagonists (although this one is not expressly written) seem to have suffered a disassociative event. What they don't remember is a painful loss too difficult to bear. Alice's disassociation occurs a few months after the trauma, although it is, perhaps, a culmination of the stress. The biggest mystery surrounds a woman named Gina. Who is she and what does she have to do with Alice?
The reader takes a journey of approximately a week with Alice as she recalls life before which builds a solid foundation for Alice's puzzled mind as she compares the current situation. Blanks are slowly filled in (too slowly for me) but the timing and revelation are perfectly described at perfect intervals in order to experience, with Alice, the moment that the two Alice's collide. Within a few short pages, the important parts to the past ten years are remembered in quick flashes and the reader understands very quickly how Alice found herself where she is today.
Another version of perspective is given throughout the book as major characters provide some detail into the conflicts Alice doesn't understand. For instance, innocent Alice wants to understand why she and Nick are divorcing. He gives her a little bit of information that is true yet incomplete. Of course, this causes Nick to reevaluate since Alice has completely forgotten. What about Gina? Again, a little different perspective, incomplete memories and incomplete explanations, although all true.
I loved the book because it made me think of what my perspective would be if I suddenly woke up as a 39 year old woman, not remembering the past ten years and not knowing why my relationships were the way they were. I'd begin anew with my relationships with each of my children. It would be an interesting experiment.
Great book club book, by the way.