Monday, July 9, 2012

An okay read

In all the books I've read (and posted about on here), I've never before labeled one "okay." I've always managed to declare it was at least GOOD. But I can't quite bring myself to proclaim that about Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot. I loved the premise (a woman wakes up from a fall at the gym and realizes she's lost 10 years of her life), loved the jacket (who doesn't love bright, bold colors with cutouts?), and LOVED the last quarter of the book. But the first three-quarters? Not so much.

It wasn't that the characters weren't interesting, because they were. And the prose was smooth and smartly written. The thing that did it for me was the premise - the very component that intrigued me and made me decide to give this book a go. Because of the setup (woman loses her memory) there's a lot of time devoted to what isn't. She wakes to find that her current life - the people in it, the activities, her surroundings - isn't what she thinks/expects/remembers it (them) to be. There's a LOT of time spent on this negative space and it got tiresome for me. I had to employ my daughter's 50-page-rule (which I've done a couple of other times: Elizabeth Strout's Abide With Me and Jael McHenry's The Kitchen Daughter) and then again, and again. At the halfway point, my husband (who never really pays much attention to what I'm reading) asked me why I was still reading this book... guess I must've been vocal about my displeasure!

There was also the let's-learn-about-a-character-via-letters-written device used that I found slightly off-putting in the beginning. We see not one, but TWO, characters this way. I did get used to it - maybe that's because the letters appear at regular intervals.

Perhaps my three-quarters declaration, above, isn't quite fair. Maybe it was just past the halfway point... or somewhere between halfway and three-quarters? At any rate, at some point I DID find myself interested and reading because I was invested. It all comes together marvelously at the end. And, strangely enough, the characters-revealing-themselves-via-letters segments seemed fitting somehow by the end.


  1. That fifty-page rule is such a good one. I do it with everything - even classics. It stopped me with both Don Quixote and Ulysses, and I'm okay with that. I'm reading a collection of short stories at the moment and it's harder to do that. It's taken me three short stories to get into the author's style and now I'm there, I'm pretty confident I'll carry on. I wonder if young writers are prepared to give a novel 50 pages...or a collection three stories.

  2. You bring up a good point about collections. Is three the magic number? I've got a couple of short story collections that I'm having trouble getting into... I'll have to go back and see how many stories I've actually read!