What Alice Forgot – Book Review

By: Liane Moriarty

“That was the day Alice Mary Love went to the gym and carelessly misplaced a decade of her life.” 

Book Summary:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty starts with the main character, Alice Love, waking up after hitting her head and becoming unconscious.  Due to this fall, Alice has forgotten the last 10 years of her life.   She wakes up believing she is 29, happily married and pregnant with her first child.  However, she is actually 39, separated from her husband and a mother of three. 

Alice spends a couple of days in the hospital as doctors try to understand why she has lost her memory.  While Alice is there, she tries to piece together the last ten years of her life and the relationships with friends and family that have grown or fizzled out. When she returns home, she still doesn’t recognize her fully renovated home or her three children.  She also longs for her husband to come home and be with her, despite the constant reminders that they are separated.  As she explores her new life, she comes across familiar scents or locations that would trigger parts of her memory.  These moments were often short and broken up, making it very hard for Alice to make sense of what she saw or felt.   This continues for Alice for a week as she tries to grapple with her failed marriage and her three unknown children. 

After a week, there is a Mother’s day brunch event that Alice is running at her children’s school.  It is here where things all come together, and after a brief fainting episode, Alice awakens with her memory back. 

Once she has gotten her memory back, she grapples with the life she now remembers and the life she hoped for herself as a young soon-to-be mother.  How she decides to merge these two lives forms the ending of this book.

“But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.”

My Review:

What Alice Forgot was incredibly thought-provoking and emotional.  It brings into focus the complexities of marriage and raising children.  It also reminds the reader not to lose who they are and what they stand for as they get older. Alice could hardly recognize who she was at 39 and that saddened her. It had me wondering what I envisioned of my life when I was 20 and how happy I would be with the person I have become today. 

“I’d be at work where people respected my opinions, said Nick. And then, I’d come home, and it was like I was the village idiot.”

This story totally consumed me; I wanted to know what would happen with her marriage, her relationship with her sister and the new friendships she formed within the last 10 years of her life.  Despite this story’s seriousness, Moriarty also includes some humor, especially with 29-year-old Alice navigating life with three young children.  These interactions were hilarious.  I also really liked the way this story ended; it perfectly concluded the story of Alice Love.

“The medication, the hormones and the relentless frustrations of our lives make us bitchy, and you’re not allowed to be bitchy in public, or people won’t like you.”

I do, however, have one small criticism of the book.  I found some parts of this story were a bit redundant.  I think Elizabeth’s story adds a layer of seriousness and complexity to the story that is definitely important.  However, I found her journal entries felt repeated and too detailed.  Sometimes I found myself skimming over those sections because I knew what the premise was, and the lengthy details weren’t necessary.  Moriarty also includes love letters by Alice’s grandmother, Frannie.  I enjoyed these letters, but I still found them to be more of a distraction from the main story. 

Overall, this was an excellent read, and I will definitely be reading more of Liane Moriarty’s books in the future.

More books by Liane Moriarty:

*Big Little Lies (This book was made into an HBO series)

*The Husband’s Secret

*Truly Madly Guilty

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