What Alice Forgot is another novel by Liane Moriarty that I have completed since I fell in love with Big Little Lies. Alice wakes up from a concussion and loses 10 years of her memory. She is shocked to find she has 3 children, is filing for divorce, and has drifted away from her older sister, Elizabeth. The novel follows 29-year-old Alice (who is actually 39) as she tries to grasp who she has become and whether or not she wants to regain her memories.
Moriarty likes to write stories by weaving in 3 different stories. Mainly, we get to read about Alice, but we also get to know Elizabeth through her journal entries to her psychiatrist, and Alice’s “grandmother” through her letters. I enjoyed reading about Alice, with the occasional depressing and cynical voice of Elizabeth, but I really didn’t see a point in Frannie’s letters. I must say, the epilogue was well written and caught me off guard, which is always a pleasant surprise. Ideas that caught my mind in this book are the differences between “young” and “adult” in the self and in love.
Young Alice vs. Adult Alice
My babies weren’t babies. They were just microscopic clusters of cells that weren’t ever going to be anything else. they were just my own desperate hopes. Dream babies. And people have to give up on dreams.
Elizabeth suffers from infertility issues and dealing with it is her biggest challenge throughout the novel. She is very bitter and splits people into the “fertiles and infertiles”. Because of this, she and Alice have grown very distant with each other in the last 10 years.
Young Alice admires Elizabeth and remembers her as the sister who wakes up in the morning with motivational quotes. Young Alice sees the world through a more naive and compassionate lens, allowing her to reconnect with Elizabeth and mend their damaged relationship. Young Alice is also quirky in her thoughts about her children (whom she didn’t even know she had!) and ends up fixing numerous tense relationships adult Alice created. This was very interesting because it implies that a younger self is more easy-going and focused on maintaining positive relationships. It seems that a younger self has values that are more agreeable. We should be kind to our neighbors (“who cares about new property developments?”). We should be supportive of other people’s battles. Adult Alice is much more focused on other things like getting the kids to their lessons, cleaning the house, staying fit, and getting things done. Adult Alice is still a nice person. She just has a million of other things to be worrying about than whether or not her neighbor likes her… or her sister… or her husband.
Perhaps sometimes our adult selves need to slow down and wonder if our younger selves would be proud of who we have become.
Young Love vs. Adult Love
Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.
I think the above quote summarizes it quite well. Young Alice is so in love with her husband, Nick, that she doesn’t understand how she can possibly be divorcing him 10 years later. What Young Alice doesn’t understand is that marriage needs more than love for it to work. At the end of the novel, she chooses to be with her new boyfriend, an ending that I would have been satisfied with. But in the epilogue, Moriarty surprises me by having Alice and Nick get back together. Usually this kind of a “forced happy ending” annoys me, but the way Moriarty wraps it up makes it look like a valuable lesson learned. Adult love is not as beautiful as some people imagine it to be. It involves sacrifices, letdowns, and a trust that doesn’t break under strain.