When I read the synopsis for What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty a few weeks ago, I took up Penguin's offer of a review copy. It's about Alice Love, a wife and mother in Sydney who faints during her spin class at the gym and wakes up thinking it's ten years earlier. In reality, she's 39, mother to three kids, and going through an ugly divorce. But her amnesiac mind believes she's 29, deeply in love, and pregnant with her first child. Interesting premise, huh?
I thought this might be a light read, and for the most part, it was. There are definitely some passages that seemed to have been lifted from the screenplay of a romantic comedy, especially when Alice spends time with the boyfriend she was dating before she had her accident, and when she "meets" her kids for the first time. But this was also a surprisingly satisfying book on some deeper levels. I found the unpeeling of the story of why Alice's marriage had fallen apart to be pretty compelling. Moriarty deftly depicted the shades of gray in Alice's marriage to her husband Nick, as well as in her relationships with her sister and children. As a result, the Alice that emerges at the end of the book is neither the naive, insecure 29 year-old Alice, nor the bitter, uber-efficient 39 year-old Alice, but a more interesting, nuanced, and likable person.
Ultimately, this book is about who we think we are going to be, and how we live with the person we really end up being.
I really appreciated Moriarty's very realistic depiction of the challenges of infertility and IVF, which Alice's sister Elisabeth has been dealing with for seven years when the book opens. That part really hit home for me, and I laughed (wryly) out loud in recognition several times.
What Alice Forgot may be billed as a beach read, and it was certainly a pleasurable, relatively quick book. And, as I noted above, some of Moriarty's characters bordered on caricatures. But I also found the book to be deeply resonant and compelling. If the premise sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend checking this one out.
(Hi FTC! Yep, it was a review copy. And yes, this is a good review. Sometimes that just happens.)