What Alice Forgot
If a bump on the head causes you to forget the last ten years of your life, can you make some changes before those memories return? It’s an interesting concept and similar to the ideas expressed in Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer, in which characters try to get things right in alternate lives. In What Alice Forgot, Alice Love knocks her head at the gym and wakes up thinking she is ten years younger and pregnant with her first child. Much has changed in Alice’s life, however, and many problems loom.
This story is a light, feel-good read, set in suburban Australia. When she awakens, Alice learns that her marriage has crumbled and discovers that, in the past ten years, her own personality has undergone a dramatic change. Her easy and happy ways have been replaced by a drive and aggression she can hardly recognize. Her husband Nick has moved out. Her oldest daughter is angry and having problems at school. As the circle widens, Alice realizes that she and her sister, Elisabeth are barely speaking and her best friend, Gina is dead. In addition, she wonders how she can be friends with the other “power women” in the community. Alice sees all this through her younger, carefree eyes and struggles to understand.
Alice’s younger personality starts to fix some of the problems, and there’s hope her marriage can be saved. As the anger between Alice and Nick recedes, Nick worries that the modern Alice will return and all will be lost. He’s sure he will know by the look in her eye which Alice he’s seeing. At the same time, Moriarty introduces the parallel stories of Elisabeth and Alice’s “adopted” grandmother, Franny. Interesting memory triggers, particularly the sense of smell, cause Alice to remember painful events.
Moriarty threads the themes of love, marriage, parenthood and family through these side stories. The plot is well-constructed, and keeps the reader interested in what will happen when Alice’s memory returns. A crazy giant lemon meringue pie-making event somehow works to bring the story to an upbeat and happy conclusion, with a few surprises.
If you are looking for an entertaining read, check out What Alice Forgot. While not too weighty, it’s fun and enjoyable.
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For more Moriarty, check out my audiobook review of Truly Madly Guilty.