What Alice Forgot- Liane Moriarty

Alice comes to on the floor of a gym, having just taken a hard hit to the head.  She thinks she’s 29, happily married, and pregnant with her first child.  The reality is much different.  Almost everything old Alice hoped for her future is the opposite of what she’d expect.  She’s almost 40, a mother of three, going through a messy divorce and custody battle with her once-beloved husband.  She is an involved school mom and spends her days running PTA-type meetings, exercising, and managing her house and children.  Alice and her sister, who were always very close, have grown apart.  Her relationship with her oldest daughter is strained.  And Alice can’t shake the feeling that something terrible has happened.  Alice can hardly recognize the shape her life has taken and spends her days trying to recover her memory, while reconciling the old Alice with the new Alice, and hoping to get a second chance in her marriage.

This is the fourth book I’ve read and enjoyed by Liane Moriarty.  What Alice Forgot, like Moriarty’s other novels, is told from three different points of view.  Alice is the predominant voice and story here, but we also have journal snippets from her sister, Elisabeth, and letters written by her surrogate grandmother, Frannie.  Elisabeth and Frannie’s perspectives help fill in the backstory of Alice’s missing 10 years, but these characters also are transformed by what has happened to Alice.  In particular, they are forced to reflect how their past selves would view who they’ve become, which helps them let go of some past hangs up and move on with their lives.  It is an interesting line of reflection, and Elisabeth’s story, which focuses on her struggle with infertility, was particularly effective when put next to Alice’s story.  Alternating points of view is something I am picky about, but I think Moriarty does them very well, as I always enjoy them in her stories.

As for Alice, I didn’t find that I particularly liked Alice or that I could relate to her (well, other than I’m a wife and a mother), but I did find her situation one of those that does force you to reflect on your own life and how things never quite go the way you expect them to.  Alice’s life has been shaped by people and events she doesn’t even remember and while on the one hand it makes it hard to understand what is going on in her life (Why on earth are she and Nick getting a divorce?), it gives her some distance to reconsider things from a new perspective (Why was she so hard on her daughter when what she needed most was love and attention?).  And when Alice finally recovers her memory, she is able to actually move on with her life and to heal some of the wounds that have been gaping in her various relationships.

This book, and my reaction to it, reminded me a lot of Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch, in which a character goes back in time to relive her past life, but with memories of her old one.  Both reflect on how we grow and change over time and particularly with marriage and motherhood.  Both also encouraged me to confront the questions that the protagonists were facing: How would me from 10 years ago view my life now?  What would I change about the past (or the present) if I could?  And I think that this is something that I, as a reader, am drawn to– books that make me reflect about myself and my own development and decisions.

Anyways, if chick lit is your thing and you haven’t tried Liane Moriarty, I’d highly recommend her books.  She is definitely one of the best chick lit writers around these days and I particularly appreciate that her books tend to focus on women in their 30s with husbands and children.  What Alice Forgot is not my favorite Liane Moriarty book (just read Big Little Lies already, ok?), but it was an interesting story with well-developed characters and it left me with a lot to think about.



Winter Mini-Reviews 1: Liane Moriarty Binge Read

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the Liane Moriarty Binge Read Edition.

I had been hearing a lot about Liane Moriarty’s books since The Husband’s Secret started getting billed as a Gone Girl readalike last year.  So when her 2014 release started getting tons of buzz, too, I decided to give her book a try.  I have seriously enjoyed every last one of them and Moriarty has become an author for me to watch.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This book starts out with someone dying at an elementary school fundraiser.  Then it flashbacks and follows three slightly different suburban kindergarten moms in the lead-up to this tragic event.  Madeline is the experienced mom; the kindergartener is her youngest child.  She’s on marriage number two and her teenage daughter from her first marriage is giving her some trouble.  Celeste is beautiful, rich, and married to a charming man and is a full-time mom to her twin boys.  Jane is single mom to her kindergarten son and does freelance work to support her family.  Despite their different backgrounds, the moms become friends.  But alongside these domestic concerns and bonds of friendship are some darker, more serious concerns all of which culminate in the death at the fundraiser.  Part mystery, part chick lit.

What I liked: the pacing, the characters, the easy balance between serious and funny, and all the little mysteries to solve along the way
What I felt meh about: the ending felt a bit drawn-out and anticlimactic to me
All in all: I loved this book so much that I bought my mom a copy.  And picked up two more Liane Moriarty books.  One of the best books I’ve read this year.


The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Ellen is a hypnotherapist who has just begun a relationship with Patrick.  Patrick is a widower with a son.  He also comes with a stalker, his ex-girlfriend, Saskia.  Ellen is initially fascinated by Saskia and intensely curious about what would drive a woman to the insane lengths Saskia goes to in stalking Patrick.  We also get Saskia’s point of view, here, watching as her obsession takes over her life and as she repeatedly inserts herself into Patrick and Ellen’s lives and relationship.  This is the story of love beginning and love ending and of a relationship crowded with people from the past.

What I liked: hearing both Saskia and Ellen’s points of views, seeing the character development for both Saskia and Ellen, the thoughts about love ending and beginning, the very crowded relationship that was Ellen and Patrick’s (both his  deceased wife and his stalker are in the background all the time)
What I was meh on: it’s a somewhat slow and quiet story
All in all: It was definitely intriguing and this one has stuck with me more than I expected it to.  Something about Ellen and Saskia just really got under my skin.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Cecilia finds a sealed letter from her husband, intended for her to read only after he dies.  She cannot overcome her curiosity and reads the letter only to discover her husband’s horrible secret which has the potential to destroy their lives and ripples through the community, as well.

What I liked: the multiple points of view (also includes the views of two other women in the community), her child characters are very real and funny, Moriarty’s understanding of marriage and motherhood, the examination of grief and guilt and moral ambiguities and the millions of what ifs and unanswered questions in life
What I was meh on: the title and blurb are a bit misleading as the husband’s secret was a very small portion of the plot, it was not as hard-hitting as Big Little Lies, and while I liked it, it was probably my least favorite of the three Moriarty books I’ve read
All in all: I’m definitely going to work my way through all of Moriarty’s books.  This was a good, but didn’t resonate with me like The Hypnotist’s Love Story or wow me like Big Little Lies.  Recommended, but I think I’d push Big Little Lies first.