Monday, August 1, 2011

The Persistence of Memory

I just finished a new book called What Alice Forgot, which I haven't been able to stop thinking about. By Liane Moriarty, an Australian author who I have never heard of until now, this is chick lit with a twist.

Alice takes a hard fall during her weekly spin class, hits her head, and when she comes to, it's 1998 and she's pregnant with her first child (she calls it the sultana; I think this is Australian for raisin).  Except it's not 1998 -- it's 2008, and Alice has lost the memories of ten years, has no recollection of her three children, and is evidently about to divorce her husband and can't remember why.

The ensuing action is fascinating.  The 2008 Alice, as depicted through the eyes of the other characters, is a hardened woman with uber-mommy features and doesn't seem at all like the sweet, loving, idealistic 1998 Alice. My favorite part deals with an episode involving her teenager (the former sultana) who is suspended from school for some infraction.  It's clear that the 2008 Alice, full of resentment towards the child who's evidently been giving her a hard time, would have dealt with this in a very different way than the new/old Alice who has just met her.  1998 Alice thinks Madison is a lovely girl, and with none of the backstory to affect her behavior, deals with the problem easily in a loving and proper manner.

I won't give away any more of this delightful story, but I would definitely categorize this as a must-read.

This reminded me a little of another book that I've mentioned before, which shares the theme of memory and the effect it (and the lack of it) can have on one's life.  Welcome To The World, Baby Girl, by Fannie Flagg, kept coming to mind as I read this book, even though in many ways they are not alike.  However, in this book memories that are buried and forgotten set off a sequence of events that culminate in a real comfort of a novel.

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