Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: What Alice Forgot

Book 18/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed:  July 26, 2011.

I forget how I stumbled upon this book.  (Irony!)  Something tells me it was a Pinterest find.  Whatever the reason, I am so glad I found it.  This book was awesome.  I bought it because it's title and subject reminded me vaguely of Lisa Genova's Still Alice, which I read shortly after my mother was diagnosed with dementia.  While it probably wasn't the best book in the whole world, it obviously spoke to me and meant a lot.  I hate to sound cliché, but I'd say it even sort of changed my perspective some.

What Alice Forgot is not only vaguely reminiscent of Still Alice, but also reminded me of some other stories I have very much enjoyed, such as The Family Man - the Nicholas Cage film (and ordinarily I can't stand Nicholas Cage, for the record), Big (Tom Hanks), 13 Going on 30 (Jennifer Garner), Memento (Guy Pearce), Back to the Future (Michael J Fox) and perhaps even a touch of "real life".

I could not put this book down and I finished it (obviously) quite quickly.  I literally found myself tuning my kids out to finish chapters and staying up well past midnight turning the pages.  I gave it a Goodreads rating of five stars, and in searching for the book image I discovered they're turning it into a film (to be released in 2013) - this makes me really hope the Mayans are wrong because I'd love to see it's movie adaptation.

Alice Love is coming up on her 40th birthday when she falls off the bike at her Friday morning spin class and knocks herself unconscious.  When she comes to, a decade worth of memories are completely missing, and she believes she is in fact 29 - blissfully married, and pregnant with her first child.

In fact, Alice is a very domestic and active mother of three school-aged children whose life has completely changed in the past 10 years, so that she quite literally knows nothing about herself or the people she associates with.

Alice is shocked and devastated to learn that she and her husband (the love of her life!) are in the middle of an ugly divorce, her best friend is a woman she does not even recall ever meeting and is now dead, her three children are complete strangers to her, her mother has married her father-in-law, and she and her sister have grown apart.  In essence, Alice finds her life a very organized disaster.

It takes a full week for Alice's memory to fully return and she spends that week being very disappointed in the way her life has panned out, and actually trying to "fix" the things that seem so wrong to her.

This book fascinated me because I couldn't help wondering what it'd be like to wake up and not remember the last decade of my own life.  It made me really stop and look around and wonder if I'm making decisions that would make the past "me" (and the future "me"!) proud.

Everything about the end of this book made me happy.  All the things I felt should happen did and it all came together wonderfully.  The tagline for the book is "Was losing her memory the best thing that ever happened to her?"  I think we could all do to step back and take an objective look at our lives from time to time and take a moment to consider what we'd have thought about all this ten years ago.  Being young and naïve is one thing, but being old, bitter, and jaded is another completely - I think the key to happiness is to reconcile and find a happy medium between the two.

Definitely a worthwhile read.  On to the next!


  1. Sounds really good. I still havent read Still Alice. I am a nurse in a long term care/demetia seniors home so I think it would hit a little too close to home, but I have her nothing but good things about it.

  2. I definitely recommend both - Still Alice I really think was probably not the world's greatest or most well-written book but given my situation with my mom (who is not even 60 yet and in full-blown dementia) I really appreciated the "inside look" at her condition - even though it was clearly fictional. I can't really explain it.

    What Alice Forgot was definitely the better of the two books - (though I'll always have a soft spot for Still Alice) and I'd recommend it to anyone. It was a really neat and enjoyable book. I only have good things to say about it. :)


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