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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot
Contemporary Fiction
Amy Einhorn Books, 2011
423 pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a firm believer in judging a book in context with its peers, which is one problem I have with a "star" system. I might have gone to 4.5 stars on What Alice Forgot if it were an option; does that mean I place it in the same category as Dickens? Well, no. But it's an excellent, compelling story, one that kept me up turning pages past my bedtime, and one that didn't have me groaning to myself, Why can't good storytellers learn to write?--because Liane Moriarty can write.

The story follows Alice Love, a successful, well-groomed mother of three who takes a fall and loses her memory--but not all of it. Brittle, driven Alice was once sweet, loving Alice ten years ago, and when she wakes from her accident, that's who she is: She's the Alice of 1998, not 2008--the Alice who still loves her husband, who's expecting her first baby, and who hasn't yet alienated the most important people in her life.

This isn't exactly a brand-new idea for a plotline, but that's okay. The story reminds me of the film Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford as a jackass whose memory is completely destroyed, and with it, his awful personality. Alice isn't an awful person, but before her accident, she seemed to have forgotten herself; now, post-accident, she's forgotten her "mature" self, and all to the good, it would seem. But somehow she has to cope with three children, a messy divorce, and the strange life she has adopted. The drama of it pulls you through from the first page to the last. I'm not a fast reader, but I was done with this book in about 3 days.

As to the writing, it's intelligent and not overwrought. The characters are genuine, three-dimensional people. You want to call them on the phone and set them straight. Parts of the book are quite funny, and other parts heart-wrenching. All in all, Moriarty's tale makes for a hugely satisfying read.

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