Review: What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot, Liane MoriartyAlice Love is 29, madly in love with her husband Nick, and pregnant with their first child. They live in an eccentric old house they’re slowly renovating, and Alice looks forward to many years of happiness with her family.

So when she finds herself coming out of unconsciousness on a gym floor and off to the hospital in an ambulance, she’s naturally worried about the baby.

But it turns out there is no baby, and that Nick is anything but interested in her injury. Alice is actually 39, has three children, and is in the middle of a spectacularly acrimonious divorce with her former lifelong love.

What has caused her to lose the last 10 years of her life, and what went so wrong that Nick can’t stand to be in the same room with her? Alice needs to know what happened, but is recovering her memories worth losing the man she loves?

Damn, what a book

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Liane Moriarty’s novel, but it ended up being so good that I read it in a single sitting — no easy feat with a 423-pager. I just loved every second of it.

You can’t help but love Alice immediately. She’s a little silly, a little naive, very sheltered in her ideas of love and marriage. You’re as confused and afraid as she is to discover what’s transpired during the 10 years she’s forgotten, and at the same time admire her courage.

The narrative switches back and forth between Alice, her sister Elisabeth, and their quasi-adopted grandmother Frannie; Alice’s narrative is third-person, while Elisabeth’s take the form of journaling assignments recommended by her therapist, and Frannie’s happens as letters written to her long-dead fiance.

All three are amazing women, each seeking a connection with others but having difficulty doing so. Reading about Elisabeth’s struggles to have a child are particularly heartbreaking, and I found myself holding my breath and getting a little teary-eyed every time I read of Elisabeth’s misery and slow break with reality.

It’s also painful to watch Alice uncover more and more evidence that the last 10 years have not been happy — and that it might be at least partially her own fault. She wants to recover her memories so that she knows where everything went wrong, but at the same time wants to forget and start new.

She is, in essence, two people simultaneously — her younger, more naive self and her older, more jaded self. And she doesn’t know which she really wants to be.

What Alice Forgot is a novel about relationships, how they can be held together or forced to crumble, and how the past can never be truly forgotten or gotten over. It’s about the power and value of memories, how holding on to the wrong ones can hurt you, and how remembering the right ones can save you.

Moriarty’s novel is equal parts hilarity, awkwardness, pain, and triumph. Beautifully written, gripping, and ultimately uplifting. Highly, highly recommended.

(I read this book as part of The Mount TBR Challenge. Here’s to a shorter list!)

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2 thoughts on “Review: What Alice Forgot

  1. I love how each of the perspectives in this noel take radically different forms. Especially the grandmother writing letters to her dead husband…that right there is very cool indeed.

    1. It was a little disconcerting at first, but once you learn a little more about each character the changes in narration flow much more smoothly. Frannie is a great character, very fun and wise. Are you going to give the book a read?

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