Title: What Alice Forgot
Author: Liane Moriarty
Release Date: June 2, 2011
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When Alice Love wakes up at the hospital after collapsing, she doesn’t understand why her husband, Nick, isn’t at her bedside. After all, she’s twenty-nine years old and happily married, with a baby on the way. That’s when her sister, Elisabeth, breaks the news to her: Alice has amnesia. She is, in fact, thirty-nine, has three kids, and she and Nick are in the middle of a brutal divorce. As Alice moves through her unfamiliar life, she is shocked by the person she’s become and wonders how in the world she doesn’t even recognize herself.
What Alice Forgot is a contemplative and thought provoking book cloaked in the easy style of women’s fiction. It’s longer than most novels of this genre, yet it’s an incredibly quick, engrossing read. Readers will race through this book as they yearn to discover the secrets in Alice’s missing years – how did she come to hate Nick so much? Why is her relationship with Elisabeth so strained? And who in the world is Gina, and why does it seem as though Alice’s world revolved around her?
Alice is an exceptionally written main character. Because the reader never gets to know her pre-accident, we are just as clueless as she is when it comes to her past. But as the reader gets to know Alice as she is now, it becomes difficult to remember that this Alice is that Alice, just ten years earlier. The old Alice almost becomes the enemy, as our Alice fights to reclaim the life she knew, unable to understand or come to terms with what she’s forgotten. She is incredibly appealing, and readers will take to her from the very first page.
The novel presents some very important questions to the reader, ones that will leave you thinking long after you finish the last pages of this book. What makes a person? What changes them? Sometimes it’s not the big earth-shattering events that are important, but the small hurts and injustices that happen day-to-day. Alice has trouble understanding how she’s become such a different person, almost to the point of being beyond comprehension, because it wasn’t huge, explainable things that changed her. It’s not as though one massive tragic event occurred and everything was different after that. Instead, Alice changed slowly, shutting out the people around her, and to be fair, it wasn’t all her fault. That’s part of what made this book so good, it’s so nuanced and realistic, it’s hard to remember you’re reading fiction.
In novels about memory loss, the whole point of the book is usually the main character trying to get their memory back, and of course, Alice tries as hard as she can to recall what she’s forgotten. But as the book progresses, the reader’s feelings change. I didn’t want Alice to remember what she’d forgotten. She had the chance to rebuild her life, to right all of her mistakes, and this Alice seemed so much happier than the other Alice. It was a crafty thing that Moriarty did, and it made it completely unique.
I really enjoyed What Alice Forgot and appreciated how different it was. It isn’t your typical woman-gets-amnesia, realizes-she’s-horrible, mends-her-ways novel; instead, Moriarty presents a carefully crafted and moving portrait of one woman struggling to understand who she is. This was an exceptionally written novel that I can’t recommend highly enough.