Gathered around the sectional couch, our plates laden with plenty, the Ladies on Literature met at my home late last June to wrap up our fifth season. Hard to believe! The years have passed so quickly but our friendships (and the list of books we’ve shared) continues to grow.
We’re excited for our sixth season! We’ve got an amazing line up of books to read and share with you. Open the pages of our beautiful magazine or log on at shannonlinden.ca for book club bests, including the literature we’ve read and the tasty morsels we’ve enjoyed. Let us know what you’re reading and how your book club makes a difference in our community.
Four of our members—Vikki, Judy, Karen, and myself—enjoy making and serving monthly breakfasts at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission and that’s why that worthy organization received our contribution in June. If “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and helping the hurting” appeals to you, check the Mission out at kelownagospelmission.ca.
Now, while I still remember it well, let’s discuss a smashing novel about a woman who forgets who she is.
What Alice Forgot
by Lianne Moriarty
This is a quick, yet fulfilling read. The Australian author, fast becoming one of my favourites (we read Big Little Lies earlier in the year), is popular worldwide. Her work is brilliant, although directed at a mass market, and therefore not what some would call “literary.”
Personally, I would. So what if she writes for all people? She writes well. Very well. Her work is smooth, readable, breezy, well-paced and flawlessly plotted with richly developed—but oh, so human—characters to whom real people can relate. It’s also funny as hell. It’s smart, darn it, but it’s not going to leave you with a headache from thinking too hard. It will, however, have you contemplating what’s going to happen next because Moriarty is a master at suspense, weaving wee clues into every chapter that often culminate in surprise twists.
Sometimes book clubbers get a little obsessed with picking the year’s best book, combing Canada Reads for reviews and listing Pulitzer prize winners and Giller shortlist-makers alike. That’s cool—I’m all for endorsing the finest literature—it’s just sometimes you wanna’ page-turner that captivates you without asking too much from you.
Moriarty’s stories are fun. She knows women, clearly observing idiosyncrasies from how they dress, to the subtleties of how they interact with one another. She’s got her radar up and ready to detect the classic “cattiness” and pokes fun at the volunteer-obsessed, helicopter mom as readily as the career mom click-clacking her way down the hall, yanking on her kid’s arm as she hurries off to work. The happily married, the soon to be divorced, the gym-goer…they’re all there.
In What Alice Forgot, Moriarty takes her readers through an unusual premise. When Alice tumbles from her bike in spin class and cracks her head on the floor, she comes to thinking she’s 29, still giddily married, and expecting her first child when in fact she’s ten years older, separated from her husband and the mother of three.
If it’s not bad enough she can’t remember her own children (or getting so fabulously fit—she hates gyms!), she really has no idea who she is. The once fun and easy going—silly even—Alice has become a workout queen and queen bee. While she doesn’t mind the expensive wardrobe she now sports, she’s horrified to see her breasts have headed seriously south and her husband has left her.
As her memory slowly returns, Alice discovers she might not like the new her, so it’s no surprise her husband doesn’t either. Her sister has been struggling with the gut-wrenching pain of infertility, enduring endless treatments and her mother is remarried and dances the salsa. Meanwhile her adopted grandmother, Fannie, who writes love letters to her deceased fiancé, is finally moving forward. Alice’s best friend has tragically died and yet it turns out Gina was a catalyst for the demise of Alice’s marriage, leaving Alice quite confused.
Told in alternating voices including forgetful Alice (the homemaker and school volunteer extraordinaire); her sister’s journal, which she is completing as part of her therapy with a psychiatrist; and Fannie’s love letters—I loved this book!
Moriarty nails relationships, the differences between men and women, and how women think. There are some incredibly powerful, funny, and insightful passages, yet it is such an easy read. It will undoubtedly have you examining your own life, pondering what you would see if you were to lose ten years of your past. Who are the children you’ve raised (why is the oldest suffering anxiety and being such a brat)? How did a happy marriage slowly turn sour? What choices did you make that contributed to all that and can you repair the damage, moving into the future with your newfound insight?
Those are the questions Moriarty realistically examines and wonderfully wraps up in an enchanting epilogue that fast forwards Alice’s life.
Highly recommended—this and anything by the author.