By virtue of our moving across the country twice in the past 5 years, I have been a member of three different book clubs in that time. I have recommended What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty to each one. When it came time to pick a book for the most recent book club just a few months ago, I read a huge stack of books in preparation for the pick. In the end, I went back to my old standby and felt really great with that decision.
What Alice Forgot really makes the best book club book. It is funny, a relatively quick read (despite coming in at over 450 pages), and has plenty to discuss. Best of all, every time I read this book I am a better wife, mother, and sister. Way to oversell something, right?
The basic premise is this: Alice Love wakes up on the floor of the gym (The gym? She hates gyms!) and can’t remember what year it is. She believes that it is 1998 and she is pregnant with her first child. Instead, it is 2008, she has three children, and she is going through a nasty divorce. The first time I read the book, I had one child. Now I’ve been married over ten years and have three children. Imagining myself not knowing what has happened this last decade is heart breaking. When Alice asks her sister Elizabeth to describe the children (because she can’t remember them at all), Elizabeth starts with, ‘”Well, Madison is just Madison.’ She smiled fondly. Madison is just Madison. There was a whole world of memories in that sentence. If that world were lost to Alice forever, it would be unbearable.”
It’s not the lack of remembering her children that gets me every time, though it does make me want to crawl in bed with my own babies and listen to them sleep. It’s the fact that Alice thinks and speaks and reacts as though it were 1998, while every relationship in her life has changed (as relationships do). It causes each of the major people in her life, her estranged husband, her sister, her children, to do a double take. It also gives Alice a chance to be a little softer and a little more patient. What 30- or 40-something mother of however many couldn’t benefit from a little more 20-something kindness and wonder. The author does a fabulous job of capturing the joy and mystery in a new marriage and pregnancy and mixing that with the demands of 3 school-aged children and a complicated marriage.
What I love best (How many things can I love best about the same book? Plenty.) is that the story doesn’t place all the blame on Alice or on Nick. It doesn’t pass judgement about 1998 Alice or 2008 Alice. Both are products of their experiences. But the mixing of the two worlds because of her memory loss is a beautiful thing. Each time I read the book, I reminisce about my own new marriage and things we used to say and do when our children were babies, and I try to reintroduce some of that joy back in our crazy 2016 life.
There is so much in this book that is good and worth talking about. It’s witty and touching and Liane Moriarty does such a fabulous job at catching the essence of a relationship rather than just listing details. One caveat: A fair amount of the book takes place in letters written by Alice’s sister and a family friend. The first time I read the book, I wanted to skip those parts and get back to Alice’s story. Each time I re-read the book, however, I love them more and more. Elizabeth and Frannie have great stories to tell as well.
There are so many favorite parts of the book that I’m not sure if I can share without giving away major plot points. I’ll leave it with this: I have purchased five different copies of What Alice Forgot. Each time I pick it for book club, I buy another copy. Then I loan it out or give it away to a friend or sister that I think will love it. I have yet to get a copy back.
I would recommend this to: fans of chick lit with some depth.