Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

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
 

25 comments:

Harvee said...

I agree this was a very good read. I enjoyed it tremendously and want to recommend it to someone I know who had a bump on the head in a car accident and now is struggling to remember all the details of her past. A good ending to the novel too.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

A Skype bookclub? Tell me more!

caite said...

five out of five..really? {control yourself...you need NO more books}

you are so right about the Alice books. I am getting them confused. An of course, how many Alices do most of us know in RL?

Beth F said...

I sure wish I could have been there for the discussion! Amy Einhorn has a true gift for picking books, doesn't she?

And I was thinking we could spend a year reading Alice books... I keep getting them all confused.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Wow, sounds wonderful, and the cover is gorgeous!

bermudaonion said...

I ended up loving this book too. I think I would have reevaluated my life if I'd read it in my younger days.

Ti said...

Glad you got the ending you wanted. A bad ending can kill an otherwise, great book.

I love how you said it found your soft spot. You are so descriptive!

Zibilee said...

I am in the middle of this one right now, and it's kind of got my knickers in a twist what with all the suspense of what is going to happen. I haven't yet discovered the root secret of the Gina mystery, but am wondering just how her relationship with her husband got so bad. Certainly a page turner, that's for sure! I am glad you liked it, especially the ending!

Marce said...

This will be on many favourite list this year I think.

I agree Alice has been used far to often. Still Alice is an all time favourite.

I can't wait to read this one.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Your blog is so dangerous for my TBR list. I just keep having to add books. I've been avoiding this one because I read (and really liked) Still Alice. I thought reading another Alice memory loss book would just be confusing, but I think I'll have to.

reviewsbylola said...

I hadn't realized this was an Amy Einhorn book! I definitely want to read it, especially since you gave it a 5 out of 5.

Julie P. said...

Beautiful review. I, too, loved this one!

heidenkind said...

There are lots of books with Alice in the title. I get the confused ALL THE TIME, and I've even liked a few of them. :)

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't read this even though it's really high on my list. I'm glad that the ending ended up working. I hate when it doesn't.

Amy said...

Sandy this book sounds fascinating! I had no idea what it was about although it seems to be everywhere! At first I thought it sounded like a very familiar story but it also sounds as if Liane Morirty does something special with it. And a good ending to boot!
Thanks for an enjoyable review & a book that's going on my TBR list!

Melody said...

Yep, there're absolutly too many Alice's books out there, lol, and finding one that emotionally captures our heart is like finding a gem but I'm glad you found it in this book!

Jenny said...

I totally hear ya on the Alice thing.. I never even paid attention to what this book was because of that. Funny. Anyway, now I'm totally intrigued because I want to see what I get from this regarding those questions. They're definitely relevant for me at this time in my life! Great review! (And yeah, that whole tiger phase was funny too, lol... although I did really enjoy the tiger mom book)

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't heard of this one (or perhaps I've forgetten it amongst all the other Alices!) but I agree about the number of Alice books. I get emotional just thinking about the name Alice as my school friend called Alice died in childbirth last year. This does sound like a good book, but I wonder if I'd find it a bit too emotional at the moment.

Anna said...

This sounds really good. I'm sure we can all relate to in some way.

Darlene said...

I'm so glad you liked this one. I'm about half way through and I'm really enjoying it. I just want to keep picking it up so I find out everything I want to know yet life keeps getting in the way. lol.

Jenners said...

Wasn't this so good? I'm glad you found a new genre of Alice books to enjoy. I loved it.

Iliana said...

You crack me up - but I think I do agree with the whole Alice titled books! Funny....

I've seen several great reviews about this one and I'm sold. I must read it. Wonderful review Sandy!

Anita said...

I really want to read this book, it's been on my tbr list...
The Alice books....what is it about that name all of a sudden?
Great review.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Oh wow, what a great review! I have been wanting to read this one a little more with each review, and this certainly pushes me in the same direction.

Alice Teh said...

OK, I'm going to grab it for my Kindle. Sounds good! I keep seeing this at the bookstore and I promised myself that I would get the Kindle editions for novels.