Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

She'd been so cozy in the cocoon of their relationship. She assumed she got to stay there forever.

I love a fun, flip-the-pages, don't-want-to-put-it-down novel, especially in the summer. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is perfect for that. Alice opens her eyes to a world as foreign to her as if she were suddenly on the other side of the world. She has fallen off of her bike in spin class (what in the world is she doing in a spin class), hit her head very hard and thinks that it is ten years ago. She believes she is pregnant with her first child and that everything in her life and marriage are just as they were. She is shocked to realize that it is 2008, she has three children and her marriage is in the late stages of a very nasty divorce. She can't imagine how this could have happened and she just wants her life back as it was. Unfortunately for Alice, the people around her all know it is 2008 and have no desire to go back in time. They know Alice as she is now and her relationships have all changed. It is very confusing for Alice and no one seems to want to fill her in on all the important points of the last ten years, most notably the status of her marriage. 

The progress of this book moves slowly allowing the reader to experience each confusing moment with Alice as she tries to figure out her life and the strange glimpses of memory that is all she has of the last ten years. I did find myself getting a little annoyed that Alice didn't seem to want to take her head injury seriously. If it were me, I would never have let a doctor walk away with out being assured that the next medical professional I saw would be a neurologist. Perhaps Alice is in denial about all that is happening to her and hopes that she can close her eyes and make it all go away. I also grew extremely irritated with Alice's family and friends who would skirt around the questions she asked. Something as simple and important as "Why are we getting divorced?" seems like a question that people should just answer for someone suffering from acute memory loss. And honestly, if Alice's mother said one more time "oh, but surely you remember that! You can't have forgotten that!" I would have jumped into the pages of this book and choked her. If a woman can forget the births of her three children it is safe to say she doesn't remember so-and-so's wedding several years before. Clearly this was meant to allow the reader to share Alice's frustrations and for me it worked.

I did enjoy the various perspectives we were able to explore through the narration shifts between Alice, her sister Elisabeth and their grandmother Frannie. Elisabeth's story is heartbreaking and to hear her discuss her struggles with infertility as well as how it was affecting her marriage and the rest of her life was enlightening. Frannie is elderly and living in a retirement community, but she still writes regularly to a man she has loved for decades. I loved how we were able to see that each of these women were more than they appeared on the surface and the truth is, aren't we all? This was no great piece of literature, but it was a fun read and will spark interesting conversations between friends, sisters and spouses. If you read it, please let me know what you thought!

Monday, August 10, 2015

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My goodness! This summer has really thrown a wrench in my reading and posting. School starts in only two weeks, so hopefully I'll be back on track soon. Recently I finished We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and it was really not what I was expecting. Letty is a young mother who hasn't done much mothering at all to her 15-year-old son Alex and 6-year-old daughter Luna. She hasn't had to- her mother has borne the brunt of the child-raising while Letty has worked up to three jobs to support the children, her mother and father and herself. This wasn't what she intended, but doubting her parenting ability, she allowed it to happen. Suddenly Letty's whole world is turned upside down: her parents have moved back to Mexico with no notice and left her to finally figure things out on her own. She has to gain the trust of her children and somehow take care of her new, smaller family.

This book touched on many different interesting themes: Letty's young motherhood, the mother-daughter relationship that Letty has with her own mother, poverty, illegal immigration and a its many consequences, young love, survival and the desperation to protect one's children. These are all interesting topics to be explored, and for the most part Diffenbaugh dug in deep and found something commendable, but as the story progressed I felt it lost steam. There was one conflict in particular that didn't have enough meat for me and it seemed to be added simply to satisfy the need for another chasm for the characters to cross. The final climax seemed to come very late and the resolution felt rushed to me. This is one of those books I really liked in the beginning, but felt unsatisfied in finishing. I have heard wonderful things about her previous novel, The Language of Flowers, but I've not read it. If you read this one, and find I've missed something, please let me know. Some books just need to be discussed.