Monday, September 16, 2013

What Alice Forgot

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of What Alice Forgot (MacMillan, 2009).

I decided to try out some more contemporary fiction, and picked what you might think is an eccentric way to select some. I decided that, with each novel that got the big feature in each issue of Entertainment Weekly, I would join the library's queue for that book and also see whether any other novels by the same author might be available. So in the case of Australian author Liane Moriarty, at some point in late October I might get a new novel that I know little about, beyond briefly scanning a review long enough to conclude "yeah, sure," and that I am familiar with one earlier book by that writer, about which I knew nothing whatever.

I don't like spoilers at all, and don't read blurbs or reviews or even a hint of what I'll find if at all possible. With What Alice Forgot, I stumbled into a situation where it looked as though the protagonist of the piece was losing her memory of a happy vacation while suffering from a bad injury and, horrifically, learning that she must have lost her child, as there was no fetal heartbeat. Thrust into the same very unhappy water as Alice, it looked like she was losing her baby and her memories at the same time.

Ah, but what was really happening was even more frightening. The baby was just fine; in fact, she's ten years old now. The vacation memory, fading by the second, is just about the only thing from the last decade that she remembers at all. What Alice has forgotten is an entire ten years of her life, but what's more stunning is that what Alice has forgotten is that over those last ten years, she has become a horrible person.

There's a subplot about Alice's aunt that never really went anywhere, but otherwise, this was a really entertaining and unpredictable story. Some of Alice's lost past is so controversial among her family that they're loathe to tell her details, forcing both the reader and the hero to put her story back together again, and make mistakes - occasionally amusing ones - along the way. I found this a real pleasure to read, with breezy, clear prose, and happily recommend it.

(Check back on Thursday for a post about another novel I knew nothing of before I opened the cover!)

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