Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty

Oh. My. GOODNESS. This was a FABULOUS book! I could not put it down. From page one-a dream-like sequence where Alice is waking up from a head injury.....to a life she has no idea she's living. She has lost 10 years of her memory and thinks she is pregnant with her first child. This resonated with me quite a bit because if I had a head injury today and lost the last 10 years of MY life, I would be pregnant with my first child as well.

It's told from the perspective of Alice, from her sister Elizabeth in her "homework" journal entries to her counselor, and from their adopted Grandmother Frannie in her letters to a man named Phil. I loved all the perspectives and I think it really pieced the story together nicely.

You are completely confused-you are right along with Alice in her inability to understand anything going on. She wakes in the hospital to find out that she and her husband are separating and she has no idea why. WHY would they separate? They are madly in love! They had a baby together (she has a whole FAMILY she can't remember). But without the experiences of the last decade of her life to form her current opinion, she looks at everything differently. The way she parents is different; the years of having kids haven't worn her down, which help her to have a better relationship with them, I think. It's SO funny, when she realizes that she doesn't know their routines, she wonders when they should go to bed and what she ought to pack them for lunch, for instance. She has to ask her kids what usually makes her upset. Talk about taking a step back!

Anyhow, I can't write a ton without giving everything away, but this book also deals with situations such as infertility and how it affects people (one quote was "We'd done all those things that people with children seem to miss so passionately"), lost love, death, grieving, real friends vs. fake ones, the affects of husbands working hard and not being present (but caught up needing to make the money their wives insist on having to spend), and keeping up with the Jones', who to handle other's situations, ("I don't know why I did it, except that I understand now that desperate, clumsy desire to make people feel better-even when you know perfectly well that nothing will."). However, my FAVORITE lesson here is the role that forgetting MUST play in order to forgive. Not necessarily erase from your memory, but the ability to look back to BEFORE an incident occurred to remember how you felt about a person before they did something to wrong you, pretend it never happened and contemplate your reaction. Then, remembering those good feelings, look at the reality, the wrong, and then choose to forgive them even though you know what they did and how it made you feel. The phrase "forgive and forget" doesn't necessarily mean to me that you actually forget the incident as if you had it wiped from your memory. One quote I LOVED was: "It was good to remember that for every horrible memory from her marriage, there was also a happy one. She wanted to see it clearly, to understand that it wasn't all black, or all white. It was a million colors."

I also really liked how believable things were with her amnesia and the memory coming back. For instance, muscle memory. When she goes to the computer and needs to enter a password for her profile, she rests her hands on the keyboard and her fingers automatically type in the password (which she thinks is the strangest password, WHY would her password be THAT???"). And that when she remembers things, it's usually because of a smell that throws her back in time. Studies have shown that sense of smell is most strongly linked to our memories than any other sense we have. My science teacher in high school once told us of a study where they gave people something to smell and though none of the adults could identify it, they all said it reminded them of playing outside as a child. The scent turned out to be some pheromone that ants secrete, so it would make sense that people as kids paying outside in the dirt would have been exposed to it completely unaware.

I also thought about taking a step back in parenting. It's apparent that Alice and her older daughter probably haven't seen eye to eye in years. She is very sullen and doesn't respond to who Alice has become (albeit probably from years of parenting!), but as amnesia Alice meets her oldest daughter and finds way to make her smile, she realizes things about her daughter that she probably had overlooked having "been there" the whole time verses looking at her through new lenses. I could probably benefit from doing that.....try to see my kids as other people see my kids, even though I KNOW they have faults and quirks that drive me nuts that these other people don't see, it would benefit me to try to choose to see only the good in more instances than I currently do.

I DO have to warn you that there IS some foul language, including the F-bomb every now and again (only used in extreme anger, not as a casual everyday piece of vocabulary, like the way swear words were used in "Fangirl" that I wasn't a fan of), and discussion of extra-marital relationships (no details). However, if you view it from these people's perspective, it is REAL dialog used and real behaviors of our day and if I didn't know any better, I might react in exactly the same way. I feel the lessons learned overshadowed the incidents. If I could, because of that, I would give this book 4.5 stars, but Goodreads doesn't do half star ratings, so I did give it a 5.

I can't wait to read more from this author!


The tone of this book is HILARIOUS as well. For instance, when Alice has to help a child with homework "(She'd actually groaned when she saw the number of worksheets Tom had pulled out from his bag the other night, which wasn't very parental of her)," and contemplative: "She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship with Nick was the ultimate, the feeling they'd always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, after you've seen the worst and the best-well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.

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