Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: What Alice Forgot

Liane Moriarty's novel, What Alice Forgot, was a captivating read with a thoroughly fascinating premise. What if, after a blow to the head, you woke up with no memory of the past ten years? I continually put myself into that equation as I read this book. While the character in the book jumps from a less peaceful to a more peaceful time, my ten year loss would put me back in a more stressful, less peaceful time. No thanks!

Alice Love wakens after a head injury thinking she is still 29 years old and is expecting her first baby. She traumatically discovers that she has lost ten years of memory and is actually 39 years old, with three children and a disintegrating marriage. She is shocked by the jump to having responsibility for three children and is bewildered at the idea of ill-will toward what she considers her loving husband. She finds that her personality has completely shifted. She is no longer a laid-back, care-free individual. Instead, she is a driven, suburbanite-mom. Relationships she once relied upon have shifted and she no longer knows where she stands with others.  Moreover, she is apparently reeling from a tragic circumstance surrounding a woman named Gina, who was supposedly her best friend during the previous decade.

At first, I was skeptical of the idea of the main character changing so significantly over the space of ten years. I thought to myself, "Would she really have changed from a laid-back, chocolate-eating, naïve thing into an uptight, health-and-fitness-driven, PTA mom?" But, I stopped to consider my own alterations over the past ten years and decided to willingly suspend my disbelief.  There are certainly personality changes in my own life, triggered by events like the birth of my third son.  Ever since his birth, I have lost my internal compass of courage. Things I used to take on without hesitation now cause great anxiety.  Of all the things that can change a person, having children must be high on the list.

Moreover, it was interesting to think about the ways our choices in friendship can alter the things we believe and the people we become. (Perhaps, I need to find some brave, extroverted friends to bring me back to that center I used to know.) All of these things were fully believable and led to much introspection. 

However, the book still fell a little flat for me.  Even though the ending resolved in the way I was rooting for, it felt like a bait-and-switch tactic in the end and not terribly satisfying.  Plus, I'm not sure I liked the method of interspersing journal entries from the infertile sister and letters from the pseudo-grandmother.  I usually find this appealing, but it felt intrusive and unnecessary at times.

I did feel like I couldn't put the book down.  I wanted to know how things turned out when her memory finally returned (or if it ever would return).  I was desperate to jump in and shake some of the characters and give them a good talking-to!  I think the author certainly succeeded in drawing an interesting story from a fabulous premise.  I will not soon forget this book.  Pun intended! 

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