Diluted story

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

This book has a fascinating premise. In the beginning, the protagonist Alice falls during her workout at a gym, hits her head, and forgets the past ten years of her life. The last thing she remembers when she wakes up a few minutes later is what happened ten years ago.

The book follows Alice, as she tries to remember and reconstruct her life in the past ten years: from a happy young woman, deliriously in love with her husband, pregnant with their first child, to the busy mother of three, bitter and disillusioned, on the verge of divorce. She doesn’t recognize herself in the portrait people around her see. How did she come from then to now?

I liked Alice’s story. It was engaging and heartfelt. Unfortunately, her story was diluted by two other stories, unconnected and irrelevant to Alice’s line. One was the story of Alice’s sister Elizabeth, styled as entries in Elizabeth’s journal, written at the request of her therapist. Elizabeth’s storyline has as much importance as Alice... but only to Elizabeth. It should’ve been a separate book – a novella maybe – because Elizabeth’s struggles with her infertility truly warrants a book of her own. Bundled together with Alice’s story as they were, both stories lost some of their power. As a consequence, the entire novel seems unfocused, as if it doesn’t know which direction it wants to go.

And then, there is a third story, told as letters of Alice’s grandmother to her former lover, dead for the past five decades. Yes, she still writes to him but she doesn’t send those letters. She knows he is dead so she just collects her own letters in her drawer. What relevance do these letters have to either Alice’s story or Elizabeth’s is anyone’s guess.

On the whole, not a bad book but not a very good one either. The writing was good, utterly professional, the characterization clear, the characters sympathetic, but the structure of the novel sucked.