“But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.”
What Alice Forgot is not a book I would normally pick up. It doesn't scream to me that it's something I would really love, but after hearing rave reviews, I added it to my Amazon wishlist to investigate at some point the the future. And then, my book swap partner gifted it to me, so I picked it up one afternoon and read it straight through.
And that is why we don't judge books.
I ended up really love Moriarty's book. It was funny, entertaining, and gave me some things to think about. It also led me to checking out another of her books from our media center-The Husband's Secret (which is still sitting unread on my nightstand, but you know...).
What Alice Forgot opens with Alice coming to on the floor of her gym. She doesn't remember why she's there, or who she's with. In fact, she still thinks she's 29, newly married to her love, Nick, and expecting her first child. But no. She's actually 39, has three kids, and is in the midst of divorcing Nick.
It's not a truly original or groundbreaking premise for a book, but it is well-done. I think that Moriarty did a fabulous job of showing that relationships do change over time and that what we think we want forever may not be the same ten years down the road.
“Relationships don’t stay the same. There isn’t time.”
As Alice has lost her memories of the last ten years, we, the readers, get to go along for the ride as she "meets" her children for the first time, sees a ten-years-older Nick, and watch as she struggles to understand why her priorities have changed so drastically. In some ways, it's a bit heartbreaking to see Alice battle her sense of self and what she thinks is most important.
Her relationship with Nick is what really drew me in. As someone who got married young (I married Matt when I was 24, but had been dating him since I was 16/17), I know first-hand that people can change drastically in a marriage. What you think you both want can and will change. Sometimes people change together (so far, that would be Matt and I), and sometimes we don't. Alice and Nick lost that connection, so she searches to find out why.
Alice uncovers a lot of secrets about herself along the way, and slowly begins to fill in the missing pieces of her life. Her journey gives a lot to think about. I mean, would my younger self be happy with where I am now? I don't know. But Alice is forced to face that over and over again.
She's also forced to come to terms with her younger self...and allow herself to feel that freely again. As older Alice, she's lost sight of some of that whimsy. And younger Alice doesn't get the sterner, more serious older version. That's a good message for us-not to lose that sense of youth.
“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship with Nick was the ultimate, the feeling they'd always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best--well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
There was a larger side story surrounding Alice's sister, Elisabeth, that I have to mention. Elisabeth is someone Alice used to be close to, so when she thinks she still has that closeness, she has to learn Elisabeth's story. Unlike Alice, who had 3 healthy kids, Elisabeth had struggled and struggled to get pregnant, having multiple miscarriages and going through rounds of medical interventions. It's a side story that in some places feels disjointed, but I appreciated it for being there.
In contrast to Alice, Elisabeth's life has been much different, and like Alice, I think she forgot who she used to be before being consumed with her infertility. But, in watching Alice, I think Elisabeth also learns to let go of what she has become and ends the novel much happier than she started.
I also appreciated the raw honesty of her story, as it's something I can understand on some level. It also added another layer to Alice's own transformation and challenges.
“Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives. It was as simple and complicated as that.”
In all, What Alice Forgot was a great read and I know that more by Moriarty is in my future. I am curious to see how they turn this into film, since so much is in Alice's head, but Hollywood can supposedly make miracles happen, right? ;) Let me know what you thought about this one!