Saturday, June 18, 2011

"What Alice Forgot"

Liane Moriarty is the author of three novels: Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary and most recently, What Alice Forgot (Amy Einhorn/Putnam). What Alice Forgot is the story of a woman who loses ten years of her memory. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant with her first child and blissfully in love with her husband. In fact, she’s 39, the mother of three children, and she’s in the middle of a bitter divorce. Publishers Weekly described it as "moving, well-paced and thoroughly pleasurable," and Fox 2000 have optioned the film rights. Book clubs love it because it gives everyone a chance to reflect on how their lives have changed over the past decade and what their younger selves would think of the people they’ve become. Moriarty is also the author of the Nicola Berry series for children, and all her books have been published around the world. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small children.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Alice Forgot and reported the following:
I turned to page 69 with much trepidation, worried that it would be the most boring page of the whole book, and wondering if I could get away with cheating and picking a better page. (This exercise reminded me of the peculiar way my mother reads books. After she’s read the first chapter, she flicks to the last page and then tries to guess what happened in between, picking pages at random to work out if she got it right. As an author, I am horrified by this approach.) Page 69 of What Alice Forgot (and I’m not cheating) features a conversation between the main character Alice, and her sister, Elisabeth. Alice is in hospital after suffering a head injury that has caused her to lose ten years of her memory. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant with her first baby and blissfully in love with her husband. In fact she’s 39, the mother of three children, and in the middle of a terrible divorce. In this scene she is discovering that her relationship with her sister has also subtly but mysteriously changed over the last ten years. It’s important to the story because it shows how people change in ways that would seem completely baffling to their younger selves. I have no idea if a reader skimming this page would want to read on because I’m incapable of reading my own writing objectively. I hope they would, but the good news is that if not, there’s only a .02% chance that they’d read page 69 anyway.

Page 69:
But it was more than that; there was a deep, slumping sort of sadness about her. Was she not happy being married to that grizzly bear man? (Was it possible to love a man with a beard? Childish. Of course, it was possible. Even if it was a remarkably bushy beard.)

As Alice watched, Elisabeth’s throat moved as she swallowed convulsively.

“What are you thinking about?” asked Alice.

Elisabeth started and looked up. “I don’t know, nothing.” She swallowed a yawn. “Sorry. I’m just tired. I only got a couple of hours sleep last night.”

“Ah,” said Alice. She didn’t need an explanation. She and Elisabeth had both suffered from bouts of terrible insomnia all their lives. They had inherited it from their mother. After their Dad died, Alice and Elisabeth would often stay up right through the night with their mother, sitting in their dressing gowns in a row on the couch, watching videos and drinking Milo, and then they’d sleep the next day away, while sunlight streamed through the muffled, sleeping house.

“How has my insomnia been lately?” asked Alice.

“I don’t know actually. I don’t know if you still get it.”

“You don’t know?” Alice was baffled. They always kept each other up to date with their insomnia battles. “But don’t we – don’t we talk?”

“Of course we talk but I guess, you’re pretty busy, with the kids and everything, so our conversations are maybe a bit rushed.”

“Busy,” repeated Alice. She didn’t like the sound of that at all. She had always had a slight mistrust of busy people; the sort of people who described themselves as “Flat out! Frantic!” What was the hurry? Why didn’t they slow down? Just what exactly were they so busy doing?

“Well,” she said, and felt unaccountably awkward. It felt like things weren’t exactly right between herself and Elisabeth. There seemed to be a sort of stilted, friendly politeness, as if they were good friends who didn’t see each other so often anymore.
Learn more about the book and author at Liane Moriarty's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue