Liane Moriarty has chosen an intriguing plot for her book, What Alice Forgot (2009). A 39-year-old mother of three has an accident at the gym and receives a bad knock to the head. She is unconscious for about ten minutes. When she gains consciousness it becomes apparent she has forgotten the last ten years of her life – her last memory is when she was pregnant with her first child. Most of the book covers the events of the next nine days until her memory returns. The epilogue then jumps forward ten years and we see the outcome of the events that happened during those nine days.
Moriarty is a clever writer and keeps the reader guessing until all is revealed in the epilogue. So many times you think the story is heading off in one direction when it suddenly takes a turn in a different one. I found it well researched. For example, memory is generally assumed to be stored in our minds or brains but it is also stored in our muscles – particularly repetitive actions as Alice discovers. Another time, Alice thought she remembered an incident which turned out not to be true. It was an incident she had repeatedly vividly imagined but it had not actually happened to her. This is also a truth. Over time our minds cannot distinguish between those events which are real and those which are repeatedly vividly imagined.
I enjoyed this book immensely with only one slight criticism. There were several loose ends that the author did not tie-up. For example, did Madison ever play hockey again? (I hope not!) Did Mildred and George get to stay? (I hope so!) Did their pie get into the Guinness Book of Records? (I suppose so!) It would have only taken an extra couple of lines to tidy up some of these unfinished issues. Possibly Moriarty didn’t think these were important enough to finish off and in the overall scheme they are probably not.
It was a great read that raises many issues about divorce, infertility, child-raising and family issues. It really makes you think about how much things change in ten years, and do I like the person I’ve become?