It’s been a while since I’ve shared a book review. As readers may already know, one of my time management strategies is to listen to audio books during my commute to and from work. I’ve listened to a couple of entertaining books since returning from maternity leave, but “What Alice Forgot” is the selection that invoked the most personal reflection. This story from Liane Moriarty helped me reach some significant realizations about focusing on the right priorities during this phase of my life.
My second book by Liane Moriaty, this story was certainly as entertaining as “Big Little Lies.” However, I found “What Alice Forgot” to be more relevant to my current struggles and worries about the future, including a fear of losing special memories and learning to adapt as relationships change. I also took away a bit of a warning from the story, a warning about losing yourself to the day-to-day stress of being a too-busy adult.
The basic summary of the story is that Alice suffers an injury at the gym which causes her to lose ten years of her memory. She thinks she is only 29 years old and pregnant with her first child, when she’s actually 39 and life is very, very different.
One of the reasons that this book really spoke to me was probably the fact that I’m right in the middle of Alice’s “lost time” right now. And we’re struggling through it. While I could never regret the sweet little boys who recently joined our family, I can’t help giving in to those seductive musings about an alternative life. Where would we be if we had just stopped with three kids? Would life be so much better and easier? Would our marriage be happier? Would the kids be better off receiving more attention? Or, maybe I would feel regret towards not trying to have just one more baby.
Much of the story focused on Alice’s relationship with her husband, Nick. I found myself thinking back to our own relationship of ten years ago, and it almost felt like I was mourning the loss of who we used to be before children. I remembered the flippant, earlier version of myself, who was fearless and ready to go on an adventure or perfectly fine with just wasting the day away being lazy – no guilt about things that I should be doing. I wondered about what happened to her. And I think about my husband, who used to be so silly, often acting like a child himself. These days he seems so worn down by responsibilities and lack of sleep. The little things irritate him so easily, and there is a limitless supply of such little things in our crazy home.
Moriarty writes, “Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together…It was as simple and complicated as that. Love after children, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best…well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
This book helped me consider my marriage as a whole. No, we are not the same people as when we were young and dating. We are different and our relationship is so much more complex because of all that we’ve been through together. I’m sure our marriage will continue to change throughout our lives. There will be plenty of different phases, as we continue to mature and our day-to-day experience takes on many different shapes. We have to learn to appreciate how the bad times make the good times that much more enjoyable. All of these experiences contribute towards the complex mosaic of our marriage – you just need to step back a bit to see it.
“What Alice Forgot” also forced me to confront my fear about losing important memories. My husband always remembers more than me and it can be really upsetting at times. I overreact by trying too hard to remember it all. There I am, in the midst of sweet baby snuggles, and I’m distracted by the thought of needing to make it a permanent memory. I try to force my brain to record and preserve every precious detail, as if doing so will allow me to mentally travel back in time to experience this again over and over.
But I can’t spend life reminiscing. My joy will always be greatest in the present, the moment when you’re actually enjoying something with all of your senses. No matter how much recall your brain provides, memories will never be the same as what you’re experiencing in the present. We should apply that fact as a lesson to focus on what we have to enjoy right now. Yes, memories are nice and it’s always fun to plan ahead and be excited for the future. However, the present is the best you’re ever going to get, so try to make the most of it.
I really enjoyed this story. It helped me to understand that just because time has forced you to change, you’re still the same person deep down inside. Your best self is probably an integration of the optimistic youth and the wiser, educated grown-up. Similarly, a good life is not all joy, but a melding of different experiences that give depth and perspective to your most treasured memories.
Have you read any good books lately? If so, please share 🙂