Alice Love, the protagonist of Liane Moriarty‘s What Alice Forgot, is faced with this when she wakes up on the floor of a gym believing she is still 29, pregnant with her first child, and madly in love with her husband, Nick. When she’s informed that she is actually 39, has three children, and is divorcing her husband, she struggles to understand what she’s missed in the last 10 years.
The cover reviews said it was a “hilarious reminder to hang on to the things that make you happy”, that it was “both thought-provoking and funny”, and it was “witty and thought-provoking.” I was drawn to the potential for humor.
Let’s get real here. I didn’t find it witty and funny. Sure, there were a few parts that were kind of funny, but I wouldn’t be filing this in the Humor section at the bookstore.
It is my belief that no two people truly read the exact same book. When we are reading, we bring to the story our own background and experiences. We bring ourselves into it. Some people’s life experiences will allow them to focus on the humor of the story, but I couldn’t do it. I found What Alice Forgot profound and captivating, but also immensely sad. I found myself (literally) crying at several points in the action.
To wake up one day and forget an entire decade of your life would be tragic. The last thing Alice remembered was being pregnant with the baby they had nicknamed “the Sultana”. She was looking forward to meeting this little person, and watching him grow (Alice and Nick were certain they were having a little boy).
Suddenly, “the Sultana” is ten years old, moody, and female. Alice can’t remember a single detail of her baby’s life. She can’t remember giving birth, rocking a fussy baby to sleep, or listening to her say her first words. The mere existence of her three children is unfathomable.
Alice’s primary focus throughout most of the book is trying to determine why her marriage had failed. Why were they getting a divorce? Why was Nick so angry with her? What could have possibly happened to cause such a rift in their seemingly wonderful marriage?
Even though she doesn’t remember a decade, Alice experiences a lot of the same questions that a lot of divorcees ask themselves. It isn’t often just one event or argument or reason; it’s the sum of all the parts. The dissolution of a marriage can hardly be nailed down to one specific thing.
“[Y]ou’re right, you were happy together and you did have a wonderful, special relationship. I remember it. But things change. People change. IT just happens. It’s just life. The fact that you’re getting a divorce doesn’t change the fact that you had all those wonderful times.” (pg. 90)
Intertwined with the story of how Alice lost her memory are other stories of love and loss through the eyes of her “adopted” grandmother and her older sister, Elisabeth. I am always a fan of books that show different perspectives, so adding entries from Elisabeth’s journal entries to Dr. Hodges and Frannie’s letters to Phil was especially interesting to me.
What Alice Forgot is not just about a woman losing her memory and struggling to get it all back. It’s about love, family, marriage, divorce, infertility, and loss. It’s about life. It’s about living. It’s about holding onto the moment, because memory can be fleeting.
“They would think she was savoring the taste…but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory.” (pg. 459)
***I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.***