I wasn’t planning on reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – I appreciate that she writes books that smash the ‘beach reads’ category (excellent twists, funny, and light, easy reading) but they’re not really my thing. What Alice Forgot has been sitting on my Kindle for seven years and I was reminded of that when it popped up as an available audiobook in my library’s stupidly meagre audio offerings. Having just finished a dense book about the Holocaust, listening to the wonderful Caroline Lee read Moriarty was ideal.
Alice Love knocks herself out during an aerobics class, regains consciousness and loses ten years of her life in the process. Alice believes it’s 1998 and she is 29, crazy about her husband, pregnant with her first child, and in the middle of a huge house restoration project. Actually, it’s 2008 and she’s 39, getting divorced, has three kids and has turned into one of those ferocious super-skinny mothers with immaculate clothes and an expensive lifestyle. Alice has to reconstruct her life, piecing together the missing ten years, all the while wondering how she had managed to change so dramatically in one decade.
She’d closed the door behind them, breathed in the smell of furniture polish and thought, I am a woman with a swimming pool, airconditioning and cleaners.
The premise is terrific. Although the scenes where Alice ‘meets’ her children for the first time are fabulous, it’s the small details providing cultural context that are the most fun. Missing from Alice’s memory is Google, Botox, Brad and Gwyneth’s break-up, ‘text me’, double-cheek-kissing, and SUVs, to name just a few.
What would I have missed if the last ten years were erased? My kids becoming teenagers and starting high school; the deaths of three grandparents; a career change; a house move; five overseas trips… Listed, in that way, a lot has changed.
I enjoyed this book more than Moriarty’s others. The ‘action’ was focused on relationships (no faux-mystery or crime element), highlighting the fact that often, what we present is different to what we feel inside. Alice barely recognises her 2008 self (and doesn’t like her much at all), which leaves her wondering how she came to be that way. Furthermore, the story explores the compelling idea that we are shaped by our relationships –
…she tried to work out who she really was without people who loved her to reflect back her personality.
This book is presented as fluff (just look at that cover!) however when you take a moment to reflect on your last ten years and how your relationships with family and friends have evolved during that time, you see that What Alice Forgot addresses something deeper.
The Mega Meringue Committee turned up at Alice’s door at 1pm. She’d forgotten all about them.
2008-Alice planned an event where school mums bake a giant, world-record-breaking lemon meringue pie.
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I thought all of Moriarty’s protagonists were ferociously super skinny women. And Gwenyth and Brad! Who knew? (Was that the one with the weird announcement?)
I think by ‘weird announcement’ you’re referring to the ‘conscious uncoupling’ of Gwyneth and Chris Martin? That WAS so strange. I’m not sure where Gwyneth fitted in to Brad’s long list of relationships – presumably sometime around 1998!
My opinion about Moriarty is based on only two other books – Big Little Lies and The Hypnotist’s Wife – I thought both were a bit far-fetched and predictable so bypassed her latest best-seller, Truly Madly Guilty.
I’ve never read her but I went to see her speak because a friend had a spare ticket and she was great – really funny and entertaining. I’m going to ponder the last 10 years now…
I’ve never read her but that meringue pie looks great:)
I dipped my toe in with The Husband’s Secret. It was a page turner but so many things about it annoyed me that even reading your review of this one – which does have a great premise – I don’t think I will dip into any more of her books. Unless I get it for free and there is nothing else to read.
I also appreciated the humor and message (which gets stated explicitly in the epilogue, so can’t be directly quoted for spoiler reasons) of this book, which I bought in the Perth airport when having to depart early from my world cruise in April. I also found it interesting, as I read the Australian book, to imagine how some details would have to be changed for the U.S. edition.
Like you, I’ve had a copy of this sitting around for years. I think you’ve convinced me to give it a try!
Lemon Meringue isn’t easy on a normal scale. Sounds fun!
Moriarty’s books have never appealed to me but this one does sound like it has an interesting premise. If I lost the last ten years, I feel like I would lose all of the major components of my current life!
Moriarty is a lot of fun but she also writes really believable characters.
I heard her talk at a writers festival a number of years ago, where she explained that her parents were foster carers when she was growing up. She got to live with hundreds of very different personalities in quite intimate situations and she became a fine observer of their ways. This shows up particularly in her early books I feel.
I confess I haven’t finished her last two books as the stories seem to becoming more and more far-fetched. But nothing wrong with a bit of pure escapism every now and again 🙂