Long before Liane Moriarty’s best selling Big Little Lies was turned into a hit series on HBO, she wrote What Alice Forgot, one of my favorite books. I’ve read it three times now and I’ll probably read it again. It really is that good.
As the book opens, twenty-nine year old Alice Love is waking up after hitting her head at the gym. She can’t wrap her mind around the fact that she’s even at the gym; she hates the gym! She’s madly in love with her husband and is expecting their first child. Except, none of those things are true.
It’s 2008, not 1998, and Alice is about to turn forty, has three children and is in the middle of a nasty custody battle with her husband. The knock on the head has stolen ten years from Alice.
So how does one go about reconciling the free-spirited, easygoing, slightly overweight person you think you are with the ultra-fit, hyper-organized, bitter person you’ve evidently become? How, and why, has she turned into this person she doesn’t recognize? And who is this mysterious Gina and why does no one want to talk about her when Alice remembers her name?
Perhaps what is so tantalizing about What Alice Forgot is that in a way, Alice gets the do-over so many of us say we’d like to have. She gets to examine the last ten years of her life through the eyes of her younger, twenty-nine year old self and she’s not at all pleased with how older Alice seems to have veered away from the path younger Alice was traversing.
As Alice grapples with the reality of her life in 2008, the most difficult situation is the state of her once-happy marriage to the love of her life, Nick. The disdain with which he treats her is especially painful and try as she might, Alice can’t remember what happened to bring about such a change in the sweet, charming man she married.
Adding to Alice’s confusion is her relationship with her older sister, Elisabeth. In 1998 Alice and Elisabeth were extremely close. In 2008, they barely talk, a fact that’s hardly comprehensible to Alice. If she ever needed her older sister, it’s now as she tries to sort out a life she doesn’t recognize, including how to care for three children she can’t remember giving birth to.
Elisabeth’s painful struggle with infertility is a well-developed secondary story line, as is the developing relationship between Alices’ honorary grandmother,Frannie, and a new resident in her retirement community.
What Alice Forgot is an often hilarious, yet tender story that reminds us to question our priorities as we get older. You’ll root for the younger, more easygoing Alice to help the much more tightly wound, present-day Alice let go and enjoy life, the way she used to.