Lord help us, there are so many books out there with the name "Alice" in the title. It is as bad as all the books with "Tiger" in the title, and no wonder we get them all confused. In my tiny mind, all the Alice books fall into two categories. Books about the Alice that inspired Alice in Wonderland, and books about Alzheimer's. I may be way off base, but this is me we're talking about.
When my Skype book club suggested this book for August, I thought OK why not. It's about Alzheimer's. My grandmother had the disease, and it is something I am convinced will be my Fatal Affliction, considering the thousand things that slip my mind in the period of a day.
Well that should teach me a lesson for generalizing. This was NOT about Alzheimer's, nor about Alice Liddell. It was a breathtakingly beautiful, compulsively readable Amy Einhorn (gah! but of course) work of fiction that grabbed my heart and squeezed.
Synopsis: Alice Love finds herself lying on the floor of her gym after falling off her bicycle in spin class and hitting her head. She doesn't feel that injured, except she remembers absolutely nothing from the last ten years. Not the birth of her three children, not her best friend Gina, not the deterioration of her once idyllic marriage. Her mother has remarried, her beloved sister seems distant, her kids are loud aliens. And she is bone thin, with muscles!
As Alice hesitantly tries to navigate through a foreign life, she discovers she doesn't exactly like the other Alice. She innocently asks questions, and tries to get to the bottom of all the problems that weren't present ten years ago. The kinder, gentler, 29 year-old Alice, without yet the baggage life has dealt her, wants things to be right again with her friends, family and husband. Perceiving undercurrents from the other Alice's social circle, she begins to suspect that the recovery of her memory hinges on solving the cloud of mystery that surrounds her BFF and neighbor Gina.
My thoughts: This book seemed to find my soft spot and make itself at home. I love many books in a year's time, but not all of them seem so familiar as this one did. So what was the hook?
First, the book was just very well-written and at the same time conversational. It flowed, which kept me turning the pages and fighting the urge to stop reading at all hours.
But I think most of all, it was the topics addressed, and the thought-provoking questions it asks the reader. How much of our identities rely upon having children? What if you physically cannot have children? Do you lose yourself then? Do you hate the "breeders"? At what expense do you keep trying to have a baby? I've been there, so I really felt Alice's sister's pain. And what if you do have kids? What impact does that hectic schedule have on your relationships? Do you wish you could culture your friendships but you just don't have the time? What about your marriage? Is your love for your spouse holding up to life's distractions? As you grow older, do you lose your sense of humor? It certainly made ME take a step back and wonder how I'd view the current Sandy versus the younger Sandy.
The story is creatively told from three points of view. One is from Alice herself. One is from Alice's sister Elizabeth, in a journal written for her therapist. And one is from Alice and Elizabeth's grandmother, in her unsent letters to her fiance who died 60 years prior. Great perspectives, all focused on Alice's predicament but also their own. Through all three women, we are able to understand the world 29 year-old Alice lived in, and grieve for the one she cultivated over the next ten years.
I realize I can get on my soapbox and complain about endings. Too predictable, too wrapped up, not wrapped up enough, whatever. But at about 95%, I started muttering to myself that if Moriarty doesn't end it the way I want, I would throw a fit. Thank you Liane, you left me with a peaceful heart.
5 out of 5 stars