I have always been a fan of amnesia stories, especially ones where there’s a potential for the character to have a “do-over” when it comes to life’s myriad of little choices. Based on reviews from my friends, I knew I would enjoy Liane Moriarty’s writing. When I stumbled over What Alice Forgot at the end of the summer, it was a fantastic read from beginning to end. I say this despite the fact that from almost page one, I felt a small ball of anxiety form in my chest, as the full ramifications of what losing a decade of one’s life could cost a person.
The story begins with Alice Love re-gaining consciousness after taking a fall at the gym. As Alice starts to fully appreciate her predicament, it becomes clear that her life has not turned out quite as she imagined. While Alice tries to piece together a decade of her life that she cannot remember. Not only has she forgotten her three children, Alice is blind-sided by the fact that her husband has moved out and divorce appears imminent. Her relationships that she has with the rest of her friends and family are tumultuous at best. Alice tries to come to terms with her life while frantically trying to repair all that has gone wrong. Moriarty balances Alice’s story with just the right amount of wit and drama that leaves you laughing out loud and simultaneously eye-twitching in the same chapter.
It has been a very long time since I’ve had such an emotional reaction to a novel. As I followed Alice’s journey to reclaiming her memories, I had to put the book down at times because it became too stressful to continue. As Alice, bit by bit, learns the truth of how her marriage has fallen apart and the impact of that on her children, you just keep hoping that she gets a second chance to repair some of damage that has been done. Don’t get me wrong, Alice is not a horrible person, not even in the slightest. She just seems to have fallen into a pattern of choices that leads her away from the people that she cares about the most.
When I started to reflect on the wreck that had become Alice’s life, I could see how easy it would be to fall into the same vortex of hurt and recrimination that she seemed to be swirling around in with almost every person that she loved. It’s the little hurts and frustrations that we take out on those closest to us because we unconsciously see them as our safe space. But is it really? One of the lessons that Alice learns is that over time, those relationship bonds are not as unbreakable as she once thought. A good lesson for all, I think.