What Alice Forgot Book Review
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…
The Good Bits.
Liane Moriarty makes you terrified of marriage in the best way possible. What I mean is, she doesn’t portray something that’s sunshine and roses. But she also doesn’t show something sad and pessimistic either. She gives her readers an honest and realistic depiction of what it means to pledge yourself to another person for the rest of your life. Perhaps at an age where the concept of ‘the rest of your life’ feels foreign.
The cast of characters in What Alice Forgot focuses mainly on the women in the Love family: Alice (of course), her sister Elisabeth, and their adopted grandmother Frannie.
With Alice, I flip-flopped between being so annoyed with her and rooting for her to make it through. She’s in a life that feels like it doesn’t belong to her. All the wishes she had about what they would make of their home came true. But the relationships she thought would last forever have fallen away. Not only is she divorcing her husband, but she’s disconnected from her sister and her friends. Something I’ve certainly come to terms with about getting older is living in a life I didn’t imagine for myself. When I was younger, I thought that at 24 I would be living in this wonderful condo in downtown Toronto. And my life is a far cry from that (those prices! Who can afford that?). So I really sympathised with Alice’s disassociation between her past and present.
Elisabeth is suffering through trying to get pregnant and stay positive/hopeful through multiple miscarriages and failed embryo implantations. She’s part of a ladies group all trying to do the same thing while meeting up to share heartache and bitterness. I am not even near the age where I’m trying to get pregnant, but I have relatives that have gone through the process. How Elisabeth copes with the pain of being unable to get pregnant and the strain it puts on her marriage felt sincere and real. I could sympathise with and imagine that situation.
Finally, what I found to be the most striking about What Alice Forgot was the overwhelming feeling of change. When you’re growing older, you change slowly without even realising it. You drift away from people you used to care deeply about and become closer to people that felt like strangers. Imagining myself in Alice’s shoes, I could wholly connect to her character. You start to think ‘why don’t I talk to so-and-so anymore’ and examine yourself more closely.
Moriarty slams the past up against the present and confronts you with the changes. She forces an examination of the person you want to be and the person you became and seems to ask if you’re satisfied with what’s come about. I think this kind of self-examination is important so we continue to try and improve ourselves and our lives no matter what age we are.
The third POV in What Alice Forgot is Frannie, who as a neighbour to Alice and Elisabeth, became an adopted grandmother to them. She’s in a retirement community and learning to be open to love again after years of staying faithful to a ghost. My issue with Frannie wasn’t that she was an unlikeable character, but rather that she didn’t feel real. She instead felt like something of a caricature added to bring in some ‘old-lady’ sweetness. She stays faithful to an old love, never dating or being with anyone else for decades.
You would think that would make her lonely. And while she’s active in the community she doesn’t seem to have any of her own friends. I suppose, all in all, she felt like a pitiable character for me. Maybe I just don’t want to imagine someone spending their whole adult life pining after someone who died. Or maybe I just don’t like the idea of picturing every elderly person in a retirement community as being sad, lonely, and not having much going on. Only having their experience spiced up by family visits and finding a lady/man friend. Either way, I wasn’t a fan of Frannie.
The Last Bite.
As always, Liane Moriarty has created a story with characters who feel like they could be your next door neighbours. She’s taken what appears to be the mundane story of a woman unwillingly on her way to divorce and puts a spin on it that gets you thinking and feeling. I cannot wait to read more of her novels.
Have you ever read a book that turned you off of something? Marriage? Kids? Cliff diving?
Let’s do lunch again next week!