AWW2013 – Book 1
What Alice Forgot
Paperback Book – purchased from local bookstore
Imagine if you suddenly lost ten years of your life. In my case, I’d lose living with my boyfriend, my engagement and wedding, my career as a teacher and the pregnancy and birth of my child. It’s a horrifying scenario which is the catalyst for Liane Moriarty’s book, What Alice Forgot.
Alice is participating in a particularly strenuous gym class when she hits her head and is knocked out. When she wakes up, she thinks it is ten years earlier, and she is pregnant. Before long she learns that the world she thinks she is in is long gone – she actually has three children, and is divorcing her husband. She’s lost the memories of her children being born, the memories of them being babies, her sister’s fertility problems and whatever happened to Gina, whoever that is. All she has is occasional flashes of memory, as she rebuilds her current life from nothing.
This book is told from three different perspectives. First we have Alice, told from the perspective of a third-person narrator. Then there’s Alice’s sister, Elizabeth, told through journal entries to her therapist. Finally we have Frannie, Alice and Elizabeth’s ‘adopted’ great grandmother, who writes a blog. Both Elizabeth and Frannie’s accounts, told from a first person perspective are unreliable and incomplete – we need Alice’s story to put them all together.
To be honest, Frannie’s blog entries were probably the least interesting, and least needed, part of the book. Elizabeth and Alice are complex and interesting enough to carry the story without needing Frannie’s blog. I really liked moving back and forward between the sister’s and found it an interesting look at how sisters, no matter how close they might have once been, can grow apart.
There were two other things which I particularly enjoyed about What Alice Forgot. First was the portrayal of the children. None of them were perfect, nor were they ‘awful’. They were children, each with their own personalities, but with the lack of censorship and maturity which (usually) comes as we grow and become more aware of the world around us. Secondly, I adored the portrayal of Elizabeth’s infertility and found it painfully accurate, to the extent that it made me cry.
There’s many interesting philosophical and ethical questions which can be raised from this book, such as how we are shaped by circumstances, events and the people around us, how our memories change who we are, how much we should tell people, is omission really lying? It would probably be a great book club book.
To be honest, this is the kind of book that I would normally buy (especially from the ‘specials’ table) and then put it aside and never read it. I was glad I did read it, though, and I already can see that this challenge will be assisting me to move away from that behaviour – even if it’s just for a year. It was an enjoyable and thoughtful read and the basis for a couple of really interesting conversations between my husband and myself.