Monday, August 6, 2012

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Life can change in an instant, as Alice is about to find out.  One moment she is 29, pregnant with her first child, and madly in love with her husband Nick.  The next thing she knows, she is waking up on a gym floor, and nothing at all seems to be making sense.  She is surrounded by strangers, and the few people she does know look, well, odd.  It turns out Alice has suffered an accident at the gym that has wiped out the last ten years of her memory.  She is now 39.  She has forgotten her children, her sister's struggles with infertility, the death of her best friend, and shockingly enough the breakup of her marriage.  How did her life become this, and where does she go from here?

I have read many novels that have a plot involving amnesia or waking up in another life.  Of all these stories, this one is the best I have read.  I thought the story was poignant, and often felt myself slipping into melancholy while reading.  I just felt so sad for Alice, waking up in this life she was so sure she hated.  But she had gotten there somehow.  Haven't we all had moments where we wondered how our lives ended up the way they did?  This book allows us to reflect on the changes that can occur in a decade, and whether or not we realize that we have control over these changes.  

In addition to Alice's story, we catch glimpses of her sister Elizabeth, chasing motherhood with relentless force.  She has suffered many miscarriages, and gone through grueling rounds of fertility treatments and interventions.  She is chasing a dream.  So is Frannie, Alice and Elizabeth's pseudo grandmother, who spent her entire adult life chasing love that is impossible.  We see in these women a glimpse of what Alice may be headed for, a life full of regret and impossible dreams.

I feel like Alice is being given a second chance at a happy life, but her life seems so foreign to her.  The eventuality is that the memories of the past years will flood back, and it is up to Alice to determine how it will affect her decisions.  We all have that same ability to chose.  I was a little unhappy at the turn I thought the book was taking toward the end, but quite pleased with the final resolution.

I felt the female characters in the book were, for the most part, fascinating and vividly developed.  The only character I wished was fleshed out just a little more was Gina, the best friend of Alice who has died.  All in all, I found this a touching story, and think many fans of contemporary women's literature will appreciate the book.

This book is from my personal library.

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