There was a lot about this book to love, and in the way Moriarty presents her story, the narrative almost has the feel of a domestic and romantic mystery. From the minute Alice appears, she’s already lost in the past, her accident and its seriousness just revealed, her life of the present receding backwards. Of course, there’s much confusion surrounding this life that Alice doesn’t remember, and it’s in her naivety and cluelessness that the reader is able to sympathize and commiserate with the much less complicated and even keeled post-accident Alice. I was along for the ride with her, and was just as surprised as she was to find her husband treating her savagely and her kids a rag-tag bunch of rugrats. In Alice’s wide-eyed wondering at a world that had so obviously changed, I found a character I could cheer on and puzzle with: a woman who while once at the center of her world, could now only orbit it confusingly.
As Alice adjusts to her new circumstances, it becomes clear that the Alice of the present was an altogether harder woman that the Alice of the past. Like a diamond, she’s brilliant, shiny and indestructible, but also cold, unforgiving, and at times very smitten with herself. Conversely, the Alice who wakes up after that bang on the head is not only confused, but a little less jaded and sure of herself. Groping for understanding, Alice finds that her friends of the past don’t know her anymore, her children are entities unto themselves, and her husband is not a fan of 2007 Alice. While I was reading this, I began to ask myself how I would feel had I woken up in Alice’s predicament. What would 1989 Heather think about the Heather that I’ve become? This book was ripe with the kind of speculation that imprints itself on the reader and it actively engaged me in playing the what-if game to an endless degree. It was not only a serious look at the ways in which people evolve into faint and homogenized versions of themselves, it was comically amusing in its portrayal of a woman who failed to recognize herself in any way that was concrete.
In a second and more heartrending plot string, Moriarty explores the difficulties and heartbreak of infertility. It seems that Alice’s sister Elisabeth has been having difficulties in this area, and it has completely warped her sensibilities and made her a woman whom Alice scarcely recognizes. As chapters rotate between telling Alice’s story, Elisabeth’s is also revealed, and it’s one of barely contained rage and cloistered disappointment that threatens to overwhelm her. I found that Moriarty really dug deep in these sections, exposing the painful fault lines of the repeated efforts and horrifying indignities of Elisabeth’s struggle through infertility. It’s a protracted and ugly battle that seems to be on an endless loop, eating away the flavor of Elisabeth’s days and her relationships with her family and friends. The pain of being childless in a world of mothers seems to puncture Elisabeth’s very soul, and it’s all Alice can do to witness what her sister’s life has become. As procedure after procedure fails, Elisabeth and her husband Ben are left with sticky hearts full of resentment and disillusionment that cannot be assuaged. A more compelling side story to this book could not be imagined.
Though I’ve attempted to encompass all the book had to offer, this review only scratches the surface of this imaginative, funny and compassionate story. This book was a wicked feat of imagination and I enjoyed every minute of it, whether they be funny outrageous moments, or sobering and reflective moments. This is the type of book that will make its reader stop and ask questions, which is something I’ve heard a lot of other reviewers say as well. It will engage your mind and your heart as you go careening along with Alice as she rediscovers herself and the life that’s now so alien to her. An emotionally engrossing read that was both clever and endearing. Highly recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.