Book Review — What Alice Forgot

Book Review What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I really enjoyed the book Big Little Lies by Australian author Liane Moriarty, so I thought I should check out an earlier book by her, What Alice Forgot.

While I was reading it, I thought I liked it a little better than Big Little Lies, but now that I think about it, I’d rate them equally. I enjoyed them both a lot, although neither was perfect.

The premise is intriguing: Alice falls off a bike during spinning class and hits her head. When she comes to, she completely believes it is 1998 and that she is happily married and expecting her first child. In reality, it is really 2008, and Alice has three children and is going through a divorce.

In other words, Alice has completely forgotten the last ten years of her life.

The premise is also preposterous, if you spend more than three seconds thinking about it. Not only am I not even sure that this “transport back in time ten years” type of amnesia is even medically possible, but the way everyone reacts to it is kinda strange. Alice is rather quickly discharged from the hospital and sent on her way without any follow-up when she lies and claims she got her memory back. Then she is just out and about for a full week with no idea what her current life is like and no idea when or if she will get her memory back. Uh-huh. Even more ridiculous is that her friends and family seem to have no problem with this, and they even leave her alone with her three children who she doesn’t even recognize. Seriously?

So, yeah, you kinda have to disregard all that and just go with it if you want any hope of enjoying this book.

But I always liked the concept of time travel (which, in a weird way, is what this books feels like), and there’s something about Liane Moriarty’s writing that I like: it flows nicely somehow, and she always sprinkles a bunch of teasers to make me forge ahead because I’m curious about what the “whole story” is.

Unfortunately (Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers) the payoff turns out to be not that great: in particular, the reveal about Gina (if you could even call it a “reveal”).

Throughout the book there is all this deep, ominous mystery about someone named Gina. Alice’s sister realizes to herself, in shock and horror, that Alice “doesn’t remember Gina.” When Alice has a dim memory of the name “Gina” and asks her family who that is, everybody stands there in stunned silence, then quickly tries to change the subject. Later a character mentions that Alice’s mother had once said, “I wish Alice had never met Gina.”

So who is this Gina? What shocking, horrible thing happened with her? I was even wondering at one point if Alice had murdered Gina and didn’t remember it. Later I wondered if maybe Alice had a lesbian relationship with her and that was the cause of her divorce.

Well, let’s just say that the “mystery” of who Gina is turns out to be a whole lotta nothing.

I did really like the ending. The author does a little trick where she makes you think it’s ending one way, then she has it actually end completely differently. I much prefer the version that was the real ending.

Is this book realistic? No way. Is it about 75 pages longer than it needs to be? Yup. Does it have any shocking twists and turns or anything that blows you away in any way? Not really.

Still, it was a pleasant read and had a sweet message, I think. I’m not sure if I would have liked it as much if I were, say, 24 years old and single. But since I am married with three kids, it was something I could relate to and gave me some interesting things to think about.

Click here to see What Alice Forgot on Amazon.

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