Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"What Alice Forgot": A Decade to Do-over

It isn't summer yet, but Liane Moriarty's 2008 "What Alice Forgot" made me dream about the warm days spent on beach sands with a page turner that is funny, touching, poignant and full of love drama and dilemmas.  Liane Moriarty whose "Big Little Lies" and "The Husband's Secret" propelled her to best seller success, shows heart and substance with her story of Alice, a 39 year old woman who falls and hits her head during a spin class and loses an entire decade's worth of memories.

When Alice regains consciousness, she believes that she is 29, pregnant with her first child, and madly in love with her husband, Nick.  Unfortunately for her, she discovers that she is a hyperactive PTO mom whose marriage is on the brink of divorce who has become estranged from her sister and her neighborhood.  Obsessed instead with possessions, her schedule, and her workouts, Alice's 39 year old self is a far cry from who she was and believed she would become a decade earlier.

In typical Moriarty form, she shines a sinister light on the state of the modern day suburbanites - harried parents who are too self-obsessed, too busy, too overworked, and too over committed to everything except for their marriages or their children.  Considered a book club favorite, this novel asks important questions like who do you think you will become in 10 years, or what has drastically changed in the past decade of your life? What would you like to change if you got a decade do-over?

The strength of this novel lies in the slow recovery of Alice's memories.  She encounters "friends" who she doesn't know, indifference where there was once warmth, a schedule that frightens her, a house that seems unfamiliar, and children she has never met.  The most touching aspect of the book comes in the form of her fragile relationship with her estranged husband.  What happened to her marriage? It's a slow discovery of the facts of her life and who she (and her husband) have turned out to be.

I raced through this book, and found myself wanting to shut out the rest of the world to read it. Moriarty has mastered the art of making her reader turn the page.  But this isn't all fluff and soap opera amnesia antics; she's a smart writer who crafts characters who are both strong and vulnerable, real and relatable, who fall apart and grow in the span of 300 pages.  I enjoyed this book more than "Big Little Lies" (which I also liked), and MUCH more than "The Husband's Secret" (which I found a bit bland and too sinister).

Each of Moriarty's novels, although addictive and easy to read, bring up big life questions like how do we mend our mistakes and broken relationships? What makes a strong marriage fall apart in a decade? What is important to hold onto and what is okay to let go? It is a perfect book club book and a perfect pre-summer read to get you dreaming of warm sunshine and toting the perfect page turner to your sandy, summertime oasis.

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