What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book about a 39 year old Sydney woman who hit her head at the gym and lost ten years of her memory. The novel is written in Moriarty’s customary inner monologue style with a few other embellishments that seem to be increasingly popular with publishers and authors. Apart from Alice’s point of view we also learn about her sister Elizabeth and her issues with infertility through her “homework” diary set by her psychologist. Her “adopted Grandmother” Frannie also reveals her inner-most secrets through letters to her former fiancé. These additions to Alice’s narrative are placed throughout the text without warning. Towards the end of the book fragments of a few lines of Elizabeth’s “homework” diary will appear in the middle of Alice ‘s narrative. I found this a little distracting even though the objective is to increase our suspense and sense of drama about what is happening to Elizabeth while also keeping our focus on Alice’s dramas. This technique does give the book a breathless, hysterical tone that is common in “chick lit” but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. Some readers, however, may find it annoying.
The main reason I liked the novel is that it contains some essential “truths” about relationships. For example, Alice’s husband suggests that divorce is “catching” and couples need to be careful when befriending other couples lest they absorb the other couple’s relationship problems. The author tackles thorny issues such as the desirability or not of children and family life, the importance of adequate sleep to a marital relationship (very important!) , sibling relationships, grief and knowing when (or not) to give up on lifelong dreams. All the characters, regardless of age, must make choices about letting go of the past (or not) and how the rest of their life will proceed. This is another reason I like the novel-everyone gets a chance to start again, not just the young folk.
Some reviewers have classed this book as “chick lit” and it does fit in this genre in a few respects. The ideas within the novel, however, are important ones that we all deal with throughout life. Furthermore, Moriarty has been careful to include several different types of women in the book- mothers, career women, “infertiles”, older women who have a family and a woman who chose not to marry or have children. In doing so, the author shows respect for the different life paths that women may choose or end up with through circumstances beyond their control.