Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

-What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

This is one of the first books in a long while that I have really enjoyed. 

To be fair, that's partly due to the nature of my yearly reading goals. But I finally got around to checking out the ebooks available through my local library and since I've been hearing a lot about this one, decided to try it out.

I actually loved it. It was well-written, intimately personal, and plausible.

I love stories about people

I am slowly getting more and more on board with the magic/fantasy/dystopian genres. But at my core, I'm a sucker for stories about people and relationships and families. There's just something about all the different ways humans relate to each other and view situations that pulls me in. There's a reason I majored in psychology, y'all.

****there will be spoilers past this point****

I identified with Alice almost immediately. In her mind, she is in her late 20s and expecting her first child with her (relatively) newlywed husband. I am also in my late 20s, happily married, and just had my first child.

So I can't imagine what it's like to wake up and find that basically all that has changed. It's incredibly sad for me to even imagine my marriage imploding the way Alice's did. It's all so cliche- he worked too much, she got too busy with the kids, they stopped communicating and took on other people's problems.

But cliche or not, it's a recipe for disaster. 

It's sad to see Alice's hope from the beginning of the marriage to Nick's (and everyone else's) vitriol from the current state of the marriage. The contrast there, and the way everyone treats the breakup as inevitable, breaks my heart because it follows the narrative our culture now perpetrates that marriage itself is doomed to fail. I'm sure there are many people who will say this is true and I'm still just naively happy and will end up just like Alice. But this story is exactly why it's so important to constantly make your relationship a priority, not in spite of life going on but because of life.

Her relationship with her children is also fascinating. They are constantly surprising her, and it also shows the way we get fooled into thinking we truly know someone. It seems as though "new Alice" (39 year old Alice) has assumed she knows her children and her actions reflect her own thoughts. "Old Alice" (29 year old Alice, the way she currently thinks with the amnesia) doesn't know these children- so she accepts them based on the way they are acting at that particular moment. Of course it's natural- and encouraged- for mother's to know their children's background and personalities. But there is something to be said about the way she now listens to them on a daily basis and doesn't put all of these past behaviors and attitudes towards them.

We too often so bogged down in the past that we don't allow for individual growth and change.  I've noticed this tendency in myself and it's something I try to fight against, because I hate when it's done to me.

Speaking of growth and change, I LOVED the epilogue. Especially for the romantic relationship, but also for the way her children changed during their teen years. Since being pregnant and having my own child, I've noticed how easy it is for adults to slip back into "Well when YOU were little." Which is nice, but again it's important to remember that people do change and personalities can flip. It's not fair to assume your relationship with someone is going to be the same in ten years- whether it's a spouse or sibling or child.

Another thing that struck me with this book was the way people treated Alice's illness. 

She literally could not remember anything from the past ten years. In her mind, she was 29 and still pregnant and happily married. This was a physical condition with a mental manifestation. But no one believed her, or wanted to believe her. They kept treating her like it was a joke, or like if she just tried hard enough that she would be able to remember her current life. It was especially unbelievable that she would not remember her children- like the Mom part of her brain should be magically protected and never ever fail.

This is indicative of something our society believes of mothers- that we have to be perfectly dedicated to our children AT ALL TIMES. It shouldn't matter if we are sick or injured because they are our CHILDREN, DAMN IT! Which, I'm sorry, is bullshit. The woman had a freakin' medical condition and her family treated her like she was being a slacker or just avoiding her responsibilities. No one wanted to accept that she did not know these children.

I understand why it would be traumatic for the children- mothers are often our one constant in life. But the adults should have realized what was going on and stepped in to help her. They should have been mature enough to acknowledge Alice as her own individual person (who in this case had a medical problem) and assist her in order to help her be the mother the children deserve, instead of leaving it to her because she biologically birthed the children. That is not enough to care for someone- you need mental health also. Not saying she was mentally unstable, but she did not know them or their routines and the adults around her should have helped all of them out by acknowledging that.

I also enjoyed Elizabeth (and Frannie's) letters. It showed the different ways families can be built and the unexpected bonds that form.

Again, I'm all about the way we react to others and seeing the situation from so many varying viewpoints was great. 

Sometimes authors are too ambitious with this and it gets confusing, but it was handled really well here and was easy to follow. The multiple viewpoints added to the story instead of distracting from it.

I had a relatively easy time from TTC to delivery, but I have read a lot about infertility. Not enough to say that I understand it, but enough that I was familiar with the viewpoints provided in the book. From what I have read from those struggling with infertility, the character of Elizabeth was well-written and identified a lot of the struggles faced by real-life "Infertiles" (using the books terminology).

All in all, it was an excellent book about family and women and love and I highly recommend it.

What book/s have you most loved lately?

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