The Last Anniversary

Three Wishes

 
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
(Amy Einhorn Books, $24.95, PG) ISBN 978-0-399-15718-9
*****
Alice Love has misplaced ten years of her life. After fainting during her spinning class, she wakes up convinced that it is 1998 and she is 29 years old. As far as she knows, she and her husband Nick are blissfully in love, living in their fixer-upper dream house, and expecting their first child.

Once she is rushed to a Sydney hospital, Alice desperately tries to reach Nick, wondering why he isn’t hurrying to be at her side (preferably with flowers). Instead, her older sister Elisabeth shows up and gently breaks the news to her: it is actually 2008 and Alice is 39 years old. She’s now the mother of three children – and she and Nick are getting a divorce.

Even after she is discharged with a clean bill of health, Alice’s amnesia continues, although her friends and family fill her in on the many changes that have occurred over the past decade. Instead of working, she is now a super-mom who hosts teas for other stay-at-home mothers and drives her overscheduled children everywhere. The close relationship she shared with Elisabeth is strained. Her ramshackle house is now a model home, and her slightly rounded figure is now slender and toned. Worst of all, she appears to be dating the principal of her children’s school, and Nick will barely speak to her, except in angry bursts. A woman named Gina seems to have played a prominent role in Alice’s life and the breakup of her marriage, but nobody wants to talk about her or tell Alice why she is not around.

As Alice gamely tries to re-enter her life, little snippets of events from the past ten years start to pop up at odd times. One thing she knows for sure is that the breakup with Nick must have been a mistake. She tries to reconnect with him, but he is wary and assures her that she will change her mind once her memory fully returns. From everything she learns about her 39 year old self, Alice isn’t sure she likes the woman she has become. How can she gain back some sense of normality, while also keeping in touch with the innocence and optimism of the 29 year old newlywed she once was?

Australian author Liane Moriarty has a rare talent for creating thought-provoking Chick Lit that is both humorous and painful. The anguish Alice feels when the husband she remembers with pure love and affection greets her with barely restrained fury made me catch my breath in sympathy, while her youngest daughter’s performance at a talent show made me laugh out loud. Alice’s narrative alternates with entries from her sister Elisabeth’s diary that provide added insights into Alice’s situation and detail Elisabeth’s own heartbreaking struggles with infertility. A third point of view is provided by letters that the sisters’ honorary grandmother Frannie is penning to a former lover. Taken together, the three women provide a realistic commentary on the complex relationships among mothers, daughters and sisters.

I hesitated reviewing this novel for The Romance Reader – not because the novel’s ending isn’t a happy one, but because it is tempered by the harsh realities that Alice has faced. Unlike Sophie Kinsella’s Remember Me (which several reviewers have compared to this novel), there is no Rom-Com movie kiss that resolves everything. Rather, Alice’s experience helps her understand both the big and little events that destroyed her marriage, and she is able to make some changes that put her in a better place to move forward with the right man by her side.

I suspect that most readers of this novel will, like myself, think about how much they have changed in the past ten years, and wonder if it has been for better or worse. If you don’t mind a book that will inspire self-reflection, I urge you to get a hold of What Alice Forgot for a memorable read. Moriarty’s previous two novels, Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary, are also highly recommended.

--Susan Scribner


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