Think about the last ten years of your life, all the things that have changed, all the ways you’ve changed, for the better or for the worse. Now imagine how you would feel if you suddenly woke up tomorrow and forgot everything that happened in those last ten years, if you thought you were the same person, living the same life, you were in 2007 (let’s say).
And there you have the premise of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, the selection for the Field Notes Book Group for March, to be held Saturday, March 18, from 11:00 to 12:30 at the Field Library Gallery.
Alice Love (yes, that is her last name, and is one of the only unfortunate details of the book) had a very clear idea of what her life was all about: she had a husband, Nick, whom she adored and who adored her, who was working with her on the endless project of fixing up their home. She was pregnant and excited about her first child, which she and Nick were convinced was going to be a boy. She had close friends and a good relationship with her sister, Elizabeth, and if you had asked her, she would have told you she had a good life.
Then one day she finds herself falling off an exercise bike in a gym during a spin class, and when she comes to, she has no idea where she is or what she was doing (she’s pretty sure she’s not the type of person who would EVER go to a gym, let alone do a “spin class,” which she’s never heard of before), but to her surprise and dawning horror, she discovers that it is NOT 1998, it’s 2008, she is NOT pregnant but actually has three children, and, worst of all, she and her adored husband are in the process of a messy divorce. Not to mention that she seems to have a boyfriend, who’s the principal of her children’s school, and her sister pretty much doesn’t even want to talk to her, and everything she finds out about her current life repels her.
All right, amnesia is a sort of gimmick, probably best suited to soap operas and parodies. However, Liane Moriarty pulls it off very well, and what ensues is a well-written and compelling mystery of sorts, where the question is not “whodunnit” but “how did I get here and can I get out of this mess?” For the most part, we’re in Alice’s point of view and discover her past and her present as slowly as she does, but we also have the perspective of Alice’s sister in her ongoing journal to her therapist, and the observations of Alice’s “grandmother” (not by blood but by behavior), Frannie, in a letter to her fiance, which cleverly give hints about the things Alice doesn’t remember.
The book is fun and a quick read, and periodically you think you know where things are going only to have them upended cleverly. The characters are realistic and, for the most part, likable, and the questions the book raises about forgiving and forgetting, and about what you would do in Alice’s (admittedly unusual) situation will, I believe, lead to a lively discussion. Come to the Field Library to pick up a copy and then join us on March 18 (coffee and donuts, as always, will be provided).