Alice has it all. She’s 29 years old. She’s married to Nick, a man she adores. She’s pregnant with her first child, nervous, but excited to welcome this new life into her own. She already adores that little tiny life growing inside her. She has a mother, a sister, an honorary grandmother… life is pretty perfect. So, when she opens her eyes on the floor of a gym, a wicked headache blooming behind her eyes, and she only recognizes Jane, the woman she works with, she’s a little freaked out. When she’s told she was in “her weekly spin class” and that she fell and hit her head on the neighboring bike and that it’s 2008 and she’s 39, she understandably freaks out a little bit. Then, she finds out she has 3 kids, she doesn’t work, her mother has married her atrocious father-in-law, and that her husband hates her and they are getting a divorce. And she doesn’t remember a bit of it. Things are… confusing.
Elizabeth, Alice’s sister, feels like she has nothing. She’s married to a lovely man named Ben, she has a tenuous relationship with her sister Alice. She loves her nieces and nephew, but something is missing. She wants nothing more than to be a mother. She obsesses over it. But after 7 years, 12 IVF cycles, and several miscarriages, she’s ready to give up. Motherhood is not in the cards for her and she is bitter. After an incident at the local coffee shop, she has to see a therapist, and her story is told in her “homework for Dr. Hodges.” She just went and had the last embryo implanted and she already knows this one won’t take either. She is completely without hope.
Liane Moriarty’s novel, What Alice Forgot, feels a little like chick-lit. I really didn’t realize it was until I got into the story. It’s been quite awhile since I read any chick-lit. I grew tired of the formulas, the stock characters, and the fluffy story-lines. Apparently chick-lit has changed quite a bit since I stopped reading it, because this book enraptured me! I sped read it in the last 3 days, not only because this review was due, but because I couldn’t put it down. Moriarty’s characters grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let it go until the last. 39-year-old Alice, acting like the 29-year-old Alice, is so lovely. She’s such a wonderful, conflicted, heartbreaker of a character. Her 29-year-old self is so endearing, with her complete adoration for her husband Nick, her completely true-to-life feelings on motherhood and marriage, and her, just, joy in living. As she slowly discovers the changes that led to her marriage breakup, the three lovely, crazy, kids she has no memory of, and the complete change in her relationship with her sister, she held my heart in her hands. I felt an instant kinship with her. And Elizabeth was, well, I wanted to smack her, but at the same time, I’ve felt myself there, wanting a child more than anything and not understanding why I couldn’t carry a child. I’ve had a miscarriage, granted, only one, so I’ve only had a small taste of the pain Elizabeth has, and it was so completely believable. Liane Moriarty’s characters are so well drawn. Only a couple didn’t feel fully realized, and that may be only because I didn’t identify with them as strongly as I did Alice and Elizabeth.
Due to time constraints, I chose to listen to the audio edition of this book instead of reading the novel. Tamara Lovatt-Smith was a great choice to read What Alice Forgot. The novel is set in Sydney, Australia, and Lovatt-Smith’s accent was pleasant and not at all distracting. I thought having her read it a plus, because instead of my own broad Southern accent telling the story, I had a real Australian accent in there; always a plus. She doesn’t change for voice for any characters, but she has an appealing way of reading that I quite enjoyed. The production value was great. All in all, I’m really glad I listened to the audio. It’s the way to go with this one.
If you’ve read the book or are at all interested, I encourage you to join the discussion over at the BlogHer Book Club. They are always interesting and very insightful. It will go on for 4 weeks, so you have time to get a copy and join in!
This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Penguin did supply a copy of the book, but I acquired my own copy of the audiobook from Audible.
What Alice Forgot
By Liane Moriarty
Read by Tamara Lovatt-Smith
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 9/20/2011
Length: 13 hours and 32 minutes
Edition description: Unabridged