Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: { What Alice Forgot }

I just finished What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty for Peanut Butter Finger's December Book Club. I'm so glad I decided to this month's book club because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It got me to read a fiction book, which I hadn't done in far too long. I read plenty, but not ususally for pleasure - and what a pleasure it was! I got this book the week before my Christmas vacation and took it along for the trip. It was perfect to curl up reading this intriguing book on a cold night with a blankie. It was just what I needed to fully relax on my trip. Anyway, onto the review!

Synopsis (my version)

The book opens with the main character, Alice, confused as to where she is and what she's thinking. She's just fallen off a spin bike in her spin class at a gym and lost the last ten years of her memory (but she doesn't know it yet). She still thinks she's pregnant with her first child, married to her wonderful husband, and fixing up the old house they just bought. Within a few days, she realizes that her reality has drastically changed in the last ten years. She is in the process of divorcing her husband, Nick. She has three children, all of which she can't remember and are very strange to her. Her once-idolized sister has failed to have children and is resentful and distant from her. Her mother has married her father-in-law. And to top it all off, she's not the same Alice in the slightest. She was a woman who loved her dessert, never worked out, and was blissfully happy that way. But the ten-years-later Alice is uptight, skinny, runs for exercise (unheard of in her world), and basically runs everything her children do - from sporting activities to baking the world's largest lemon merangue pie! Her world is turned upside down. The book takes place over the course of about a week where she slowly gets teeny bits and pieces of her memory back, trying to make sense of "reality." But in the end, her hit on the head may have actually just been the best thing that ever happened to her and her family.


Loved. This. Book. It hooked me right away and kept me going. Honestly, when I first picked it up, I was like... Wow, this is long and thick. But by the end, I could hardly believe it was almost over. It hooked me so well because the whole time, I was thinking, "Oh my God, Alice has to find out what her life is really like!" And I couldn't wait to see if she ever got her memory back. So I just kept turning the pages!

Something I liked and disliked about this book was how emotionally attached I got to the story. Obviously, a good story is supposed to evoke emotion in its reader, but I was actually getting sad or depressed from parts of this story. The hardest thing for me was reading about Alice and her husband, Nick. Being a newlywed myself, I was smitten with Alice's memories of the early years of her marriage. When she lost her memory, she still thought that was reality: a sweet doting husband who adored her and their unborn child. How sweet! I was already in love with Nick before he was really in the story. And then - reality hit Alice and I hard. I was just as taken aback by Nick's hard, cold tone when he first speaks to her in the book. She's in the hospital, hoping he will come to her rescue like she expects. But instead, he's on a business trip in Portugal cussing her out on the other line. I was seriously upset when I read this!

After I realized they were getting divorced, it made more sense, but I was still highly affected. The whole concept of their divorce was interesting. Alice (without her memory) thought of it like a newlywed would. She couldn't fathom why they were getting divorced. She kept thinking it must have been an affair, a death of a child - something "worth" getting divorced for. But when she asks Nick, he simple replies that the reason is a million little reasons and not one big one. This book made me really think about the concept of divorce and why it happens. As a newlywed, it's easy to think that only "big bad" things can trigger a divorce. But the reality for many people, I believe, is that it's actually all the small things that build up around two people and then drive them away. This was sad to read about, but so intriguing and pertinent to modern day. It wasn't delightful to read about divorce and how many people it affects, but it was eye-opening and very thought-provoking.

Things I liked:
  • I loved all the characters, Alice especially. The way Moriarty wrote was just so real. Her writing is conversational, witty, and raw in a beautiful, real-life way. 
  • I liked the way she dealt with Elisabeth's infertility. Alice's sister Elisabeth kept a journal for her psychiatrist as a part of her therapy to heal from how many miscarriages she had had. Elisabeth had been trying by IVF to get pregnant for six years. She had no problem getting pregnant, but always lost the baby. This was a really interesting side-story that was completely opposite from Alice's - the perfect mom with three kids. It was nice to read something sad, like infertility, because Moriarty wrote it with such realistic and raw emotion. 
  • The Australian setting. I've never been to Australia, but it was cool to have somewhere new as a setting. Although I kept picturing it all to be like England for some reason... Not sure why. 
  • The ending! Not going to give anything away here, but right up until the last pages, I thought it was going to end one way, and I was like - NO WAY can it end this way. But then it didn't. It was a really good, catching ending that I adored. 
Things I didn't like:
  • Like I said earlier, Elisabeth keeps a journal that you get to read and so does their surrogate grandmother, Frannie. Frannie writes to her deceased fiance from years before. The thing I didn't like is that most the time, Frannie's entries would follow Elisabeth's almost always. It just started to become a little old. I wish they had been spaced out from each other. By the end of the book, I was tired of the journal entries. 
  • I also just didn't care for the story line with Frannie altogether. It was much less deep than Elisabeth's and just didn't add much to me. Frannie didn't seem to be a major character in Alice's life like Elisabeth was, so I just didn't see her entries as that important. 
End Thoughts 

Overall, I would give this book an 8 out of 10. I thought it was very well-written, captured me as a reader, and had a very interesting story line. I would definitely like to check out more of Moriarty's novels in the future. I am so glad I filled my time with some much-needed reading. This book has definitely inspired me to keep doing book club or whatever it takes to get some quality reading time in for my pleasure.

Questions for the day... 

  • If you've read this book, what did you think of the journal entries? If not, what's the last good book you've read and why? 
  • How does the concept of divorce affect you? Would it upset you like it upset me? 

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