Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Ahh, we’re in the prime of summer, when the days feel just a bit longer and one might find oneself at some point in time reading outside. Reading outside has always been a delicious pastime for me. During the summer when I was a kid, my brother and I would visit my grandma and grandpa in Louisiana, and we would take a road trip to visit all of the numerous family members. One of my great-aunts lived on a farm, and I would always read my books in her hay mow (the upper part of the barn where she stored hay). As I read, my aunt would walk outside to check her tomatoes, wave to me, yell, “catch” and throw up a tomato for me to eat like an apple. Books always seemed to be juicier when I had a warm tomato in my hand and hay in my hair.

Since I don’t have a hay mow to visit this summer, I often like to read outside in the park, or on a beach or beside a lake if I’m lucky, while eating some cherries on a picnic blanket. Recently, during one such outing, I stumbled upon an amazing summer read by accident.

How do you read a book by accident? You share a kindle with your mother. After my second kindle broke, my mother and I decided we would implement our plan of world domination (read: a shared kindle library). I purchased a kindle on my mother’s account, and basked in her vast collection of titles. Clicking on “What Alice Forgot”, I fully intended to read “Still Alice” (you know, the one that’s been made into a move with Julianne Moore). About 20 pages in, I realized that while both books involve a lady named Alice and losing memory, that’s where the story similarities end, at which point I shrugged, decided I was into the story anyways, and continued reading.

The premise of “What Alice Forgot” is not entirely realistic. Alice falls at the gym, hits her head, and immediately loses 10 years of memories. Suddenly she feels like she’s 29, pregnant with her first child, still madly in love with her husband….and I’ll stop there before I ruin too much of the story. You can probably guess how the story ends up. Again, not super realistic. Yet, what I loved the most is thinking about how much happens and how much people can change in 10 years.

I think people’s core characters remain fairly consistent.

Some of my friends I have known my entire lives, and just because we get together for happy hour now rather than climbing trees doesn’t mean we have fundamentally changed. Yet, I do believe aspects of your personality can shift as our stories change. Seeing Alice in her current stage of life with her 10-year old expired mindset was hilarious and devastating at the same time. The person she had become definitely clashed with her person she was, and as a reader, I found myself rooting for both versions of Alice simultaneously.

Naturally, I found myself thinking about how my personality has shifted and how my story has changed in the past ten years. When I was 23, I was living at home with my parents right out of college, trying to get a job as a journalist, recovering from my most recent breakup, and wanting adventure (which I then found for several years as a roving outdoor educator). Well, that was my story at the time. But who was I? 23 year-old Julie and 33 year-old Julie share several core traits: idealistic, perfectionistic, wanting to please everyone, caring so deeply and feeling so much. Yet, 33 year-old Julie definitely stands up for what she wants more of the time, takes more risks, and stays true to who she is more of the time. I miss the nomad lifestyle of 23 year-old Julie, yet I love the feeling of home that 33 year-old Julie has. Bottom line, I’m glad to have my present, past and future selves along with me for the ride that is my story (as was Alice).

So overall, I would highly recommend “What Alice Forgot”, even to read on purpose. It’s a fast read, it’s set in Australia (always a plus), the characters really reel you in, and it’ll get you to think a bit more about your own story.

What would your (subtract 10 years from your age) self would think of your current self? How has your story changed?

 In the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts!