Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review: What Alice Forgot

By Melissa Amster
When I first read the premise for "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty, I thought it would be like "Remember Me?" by Sophie Kinsella. In part, a good thing, as I enjoyed "Remember Me?" but I also worried that it would lack in originality, as a result. However, "What Alice Forgot" blew that novel, along with many other great novels, out of the water.

Alice Love wakes up on the floor of a gym one morning and realizes she is ten years older than she last remembers. She also believes she is pregnant with her first child, even though she now has three kids for whom she doesn't remember giving birth. And things are supposed to be in their honeymoon stages with her husband, but she finds out that her marriage is not doing too well. As she tries to remember what happened and piece her life back together, more surprises show up along the way. She has to navigate 2008 in the body of a 39 year-old, but with her mind stuck ten years in the past. It leads to new realizations that shake her to her core and allow her to make new decisions regarding the path her life is taking.

I was completely drawn into the story from the very first page and it didn't let go of me, even as I finished. It reminded me of "Click" and "13 Going on 30" (two movies about future time travel that I enjoy). However, it wasn't actually about time travel. It had that feel though. I kept wondering if Alice was going to wake up back in good old 1998, realizing it was all just a dream. What I liked was that Alice wasn't the only one narrating the story. There are two other perspectives, told in the form of letters to people that are even more secondary (the reader never sees the people being addressed in these letters). Given that Alice had amnesia, she was rendered an unreliable narrator. Having the other narrators there kept the story grounded and allowed the reader to trust what Ms. Moriarty was trying to present. I also liked that since Alice was stuck in a mind-frame of ten years prior, she allowed a lot of room to create various stories for her characters and also described in great detail about Alice's life when she was starting out in her marriage, before kids came along. All the characters were interesting to read about, as they had such diverse and distinct personalities and were easy to visualize.

What didn't work so well was Ms. Moriarty's gestational math calculations. She had stated that Alice's baby was due in August of 1999. However, Alice is supposedly first pregnant in 1998. She last remembers being 14 weeks pregnant. Even if it were at the end of December, there's no way she could carry the baby until August without being extremely overdue. Maybe there was a typo somewhere? Otherwise, it didn't make sense and trying to figure out what her due date should have been was distracting me from some enjoyment of the story. The second factor is something I recently discussed in my review of "The Baby Planner" by Josie Brown, in regards to audience sensitivity. There are parts in the story that immediately disqualified me from recommending it to certain audiences (in this case, those prone to infertility or multiple miscarriages). Aside from that, the ending felt a little rushed, but that's just me wishing Ms. Moriarty would have fleshed it out for another hundred pages or so because I just wanted more to happen.

Overall, I absolutely loved "What Alice Forgot." It was an amazing story that I won't be "forgetting" for a long time. (I even had a dream about it!) It made me think a lot about how I see my own life, through my eyes and through the eyes of people I reconnected with after being out of contact for a long period of time. It also made me think about what I cherish most from my relationship with my husband, as well as my kids. I rank it up there with "She's Come Undone" (Wally Lamb) on my all time favorites list. I even ordered one of Ms. Moriarty's other books already. It was extremely well-written (aside from the math issue) and had such heart and soul that it's impossible not to fall in love with.


Nina said...

Wow, this book sounds super interesting!

Unknown said...

Okay, now I want to read this! You're right, I won't suggest it to my sister.