Hear Sydney mother and well-known cellist Clementine Hart share her story: "One Ordinary Day."
Clementine has been delivering this talk to local "community" groups at settings like libraries and similar meeting places. The book opens on one of these talks, two months after the "ordinary day" in question. On that day, Clementine, her husband Sam, and their young daughters Holly and Ruby attended an impromptu barbecue next door to the house of Clementine's oldest friend Erika. Originally, Erika and her husband Oliver had invited the Harts to their home for tea, but their gregarious neighbor Vid, inspired by the beautiful day, made the spontaneous invitation when Erika encountered him on her way home from picking up refreshments for the tea.
The "ordinary" day takes an unexpected turn that affects everyone who was there--and in the couple of months that have passed, everyone questions what exactly happened and why. What if the barbecue hadn't been held? What if the invitation had been declined?
Clementine and Erika have a complicated relationship. When they were very young, Clementine's mother Pam, a social worker, noticed little Erika sitting alone and urged Clementine to "be kind" and befriend her. Erika's mother Sylvia had become a hoarder following her husband leaving. Pam became something of a surrogate mother to Erika, and their home a refuge of order and cleanliness. There is an element of rivalry, among other traits, to the friendship between Clementine and Erika.
The narrative moves back and forth in time between the day of the barbecue (plus the day right after) and a time frame that starts two months after that fateful evening. The narrative perspectives (told in third person) include Erika, Clementine, Sam, Oliver, Vid, Vid's wife Tiffany, and Vid and Tiffany's daughter Dakota. There is a bit of a spiral effect, as the book takes the reader bit by bit through the fateful day and reveals just why it turned out to be not so ordinary. I don't want to give away any of the book's secrets, so I will just say I felt it was a trip well worth taking.
Although I was primarily listening to this narrative in audio format, I had also checked out the hardcover, because sometimes when I listen to something, my brain takes a little trip, and I like to review certain bits of the text version after this happens. Then sometimes I get so involved in the text version, I end up finishing that way. Which is what happened this time. I ended up reading maybe the last 20-25% as text. Then as I was writing this review, I recalled that the audiobook had bonus content at the end: an interview between narrator Caroline Lee and the author, Liane Moriarty. So I took a little break to listen to that--it's mostly the narrator interviewing the author. One interesting tidbit is that Moriarty never listens to the audibooks, just as she doesn't read her finished books, but she gets a lot of positive feedback about Lee's narration. This is the third Liane Moriarty book I've listened to/read, and I've come to appreciate that Caroline Lee really adds something to the characterization.
Listened to in audio format.
What Alice Forgot was set around Alice from the day of her accident to the day of the Monster Meringue Party when her memory returned.
Before Alice hit her head she was a 39 year old mother of 3 and soon to be divorced. After the accident she thought she was 29 years old, happily married to Nick and pregnant with her first born nicknamed the sultana. The 29 year old Alice was far nicer then the bitter 39 year old Alice. I really felt for young Alice when she was shocked to realise that the older version of Alice is a fitness fanatic, thin, well dressed and a large part of the school community.
Whe she first spoke to Nick she was genuinely upset and confused that the man she loved actually despised her. Also young Alice was close to her older sister Elizabeth but was sad to find other the years their relationship had deteriorated but did not understand why. In between chapters there were diary extracts from Elizabeth to her therapist which gave her opinion of Alice and Elizabeth's fertility problems.
I enjoyed the memory flashbacks that Alice had revealing snippets of the past. I longed to find out what happended to Alice to change her personality. The last 3 chapters made this book for me when you realised that their breakup was not due to one incident but a series of incidents caused by Alice and Nick. It makes you realise there are 2 sides to every story.
I did enjoy What Alice Forgot but not as much as Big Little Lies. The story was too long and sometimes dragged. Unfortunately it did not call me to drop everything to listen. I also thought the blog entries from Alice's unofficial Grandma were unnecessary.
On the whole a decent story with a satisfying ending.
Sometimes I get impatient with the kind of novel where you have to follow what seems like a bazillion characters and their disparate storylines, until those stories finally come together at the end. This one, however, kept me engaged from the beginning, because each storyline was populated with realistically interesting and flawed characters, and I was genuinely curious to discover how their stories would all resolve. Admittedly, it did seem to rely on a lot of convenient coincidences, but most novels do.
This was a story of relationships, choices, and the consequences of allowing pride, unconscious prejudice, and assumptions to drive decisions. I enjoyed it very much.
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Caroline Lee does her usual outstanding job of giving voice to a cast of characters.
It's amazing that, before the first chapter is even up, Moriarty has drawn her characters with such humanity and realism that I feel more connected to them, more interested in them, than for Grisham's characters throughout his entire book.