Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Lesson in What Alice Forgot

Memory is a funny thing. As a child, I distinctly remember thinking how great my memory was. At some point that changed in a hurry. There are some things in my life I remember vividly–random moments, like arguing whether a dandelion was a weed or flower. Or how my mother sat at the kitchen table every morning with a vanity tray to apply her makeup. Then there are those disturbing times when I don't recognize a chummy acquaintance at the grocery store. Memory truly is a fickle device.

I recently finished a book which made me consider how we remember things, what we remember, and how it impacts our perspective on life. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty gives you some pause on the subject. The novel begins with Alice waking up at a gym, having suffered a head injury, to realize she has forgotten the last ten years of her life. A lot has taken place in ten years. Three children. Lost friendships. A marriage on the brink.

As Alice waits to reclaim her memory, she gains a somewhat objective opinion of who she has become. And she's not at all sure she likes herself anymore. While the story line is certainly compelling enough, Ms. Moriarty elevates this novel with flourish, punchy dialogue and thoughtful character development. Cleverness has a tendency to win me over, and the dialogue often left me smiling and, quite honestly, thinking.

Some of my favorites:

“How could she not be with someone forever when even their feet-his huge, not especially attractive feet, with their long hairy toes-felt like home?” 

“Nick explained that an aperitif was an pre-dinner drink. Nick came from an aperitif-drinking family. Alice came from a family with one dusty bottle of Baileys sitting hopefully in the back of the pantry with the tins of spaghetti.” 

Alice's plight isn't the only plot line. Her sister has been unsuccessful in her attempts to have a child–a heartbreaking issue. And her honorary grandmother has begrudgingly fallen in love after years of spinsterhood. All of these stories weave together to present an authentic tale of family dynamics through the passage of time. This novel could've easily turned sappy, but Moriarty chose the more interesting path which keeps the reader guessing while examining the depths of each character. The story is bound to strike nerves with a few readers and ask themselves, "What if that would've happened to me?" It was the question which kept me turning the pages. How would Alice respond?

While I'm a few years older than the Alice, I could relate to her in terms of the challenges of being a busy mother and wife. Once Alice lost the last ten years of her memory, she slipped into the optimism of her younger self: pre-kids, early marriage years. Anyone who reads this book can't help but contemplate the shift that occurs when life seems to take over your soul and threatens relationships. As it turns out, the novel is more than just a story. It's an exercise which asks, "How does the passage of time change you? For the good? For the worse?"

If I could go back ten years in time, I might tell myself a few things. Stop the wardrobe wars with my daughter. Read more comic books with my son. Find more common hobbies with my husband. Now here I am, looking ahead to the next ten years. With a deeper self-awareness, I'll do what I can to become more intimate and loving with my all my family and friends. I don't doubt a shift will occur. But my hope is the shift is for the better.

“Relationships don’t stay the same. There isn’t time.” 
                                                                                     -Lianne Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

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