What Alice Forgot

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The lady who chose this book likes authors such as Jodi Piccoult but her most recent picks have been The Life of Pi and The Happiness Project. This was an enjoyable, quick, light, breezy summer read.  I don't think there could have been a more enjoyable book to start summer with.

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex:  1
Religion:  0
Gruesome:  1
Suspense:  3
Morality:  3

Sex - Madison, at ten, was upset because a schoolmate said Alice had sex with the principal.  Otherwise, nothing remarkable.  Even Alice's flashback of her honeymoon includes them falling asleep completely clothed, drunk and exhausted after the reception.

Religion - I don't recall it even being mentioned. 

Gruesome - When Alice hit her head there was no blood, just some nausea.  There may have been a child injury tended by a mom but I don't recall for certain.

Suspense - It wasn't a keep you awake page turner, but I did enjoy the suspense of finding out who Frannie was writing to, who Gina was, and who Alice would end up with.

Morality - Alice tried to live a good life,  participate in her community and raise her kids to the best of her abilities.  Nothing preachy but also not a sinful, lusty life.

From reading the book jacket, I knew the divorce was something Alice forgot so I knew it would eventually come up but when Elisabeth told her, it hit me like a ton of bricks, I could really empathize.  I guess I thought Nick would play along and she'd never find out like on a soap opera.

I often found myself wondering how a divorced person, especially a recently divorced person or one for whom the divorce was not their choice, would feel about this book.  I can only imagine the tendency to play what if in one's mind.  Especially towards the end of the book when the author just makes one zinger of a contemplation point after another.

Discussion Questions

Question:  What would surprise you about your current life if you woke up and thought it was ten years prior?  What people were an intrinsic part of your life then but not now?  What good habits, like Alice's exercising, have you gained or lost?  What bad habits, like Alice's coffee drinking, have you gained or lost?  How have your extended family relationships changed in the last ten years?  What about technology?

Question:  How did you feel about the parallel stories of Elisabeth and Frannie and how they were presented through homework and letter writing?

Question:  Did you enjoy the teasing out of relationships, like who was Frannie writing to and who was Gina?

Question:  What things do you do so routinely, like Alice putting on makeup, that you could do them on auto-pilot if you lost your memory?  Is that good or bad?

Question:  Do you think Alice should've hit her head again to get her memory back?

Question:  Was it odd that after being so in love with Nick, Alice dated DomiNICK?  (similar name)

Question:  At what point should Alice have told Dominick it wasn't going to work or asked for a break?

Question:  Were you satisfied with who Alice ended up with?  Would she have ended up with the same person if she'd never lost her memory?

Discuss:  "Maybe if she'd just asked him for help more?  If she'd fallen apart more often so he could be the knight in shining armor (but how sexist and wrong was that?), if she hadn't made herself the expert on everything to do with the children;  if she hadn't been so condescending when he dressed the children in weirdly inappropriate combinations.  He didn't stand being made to feel stupid, so then he just stopped offering to dress them.  His stupid pride.  //  Her stupid pride about being the best, most professional mother." (p. 400)

Discuss:  "It was good to remember that for every horrible memory from her marriage, there was also a happy one.  ... it wasn't all black, or all white.  It was a million colors.  And yes, ultimately it hadn't worked out, but that was okay.  Just because a marriage ended didn't mean that it hadn't been happy at times. (p. 401)

Discuss:  "With Dominick she felt the sweet, soothing comfort of being with a man who was besotted by her, fascinated by her and wanted to find out who she was.  With Nick, all she felt was bitterness, fury, and hurt.  He was a man who had already decided who she was, who could list all her flaws, annoying tendencies, and mistakes."  (p. 401)  Is this transition inevitable?

Discuss:  "It wasn't just that her memories of the last ten years were back.  It was that her true self, as formed by those ten years, was back.  As seductive as it might have been to erase the grief and pain of the last ten years, it was also a lie.  Young Alice was a fool.  A sweet, innocent fool.  Young Alice hadn't experienced ten years of living" (p. 401)

Discuss:  "When Dominick came over after a day's work, he was totally present.  Not like Nick, who would sometimes act as if Alice and the children weren't quite real, as if his real life was at the office.  I wasn't as if Dominick didn't have a stressful job, too.  Nick might run a company but Dominick ran a school.  And which one was contributing more to the community?"  (p. 403)

Question:  Did you notice that Chapter 1 and the Epilogue had the same first paragraph.

Theme Ideas

Have guests bring pictures of themselves from ten years ago.

Serve ham and tomato sauce sandwiches like Alice and Elisabeth ate when they were small.

Serve champagne - as was frequently drunk.

Serve banana muffins (with lots of butter for Ben) as Alice served to Ben before her memory loss and also to the Mega Meringue committee.

Serve lemon meringue pie.

Have a "basket made of shiny cardboard filled with lollies" (p. 83) and Freddo Frogs like Alice had when she came home from a birthday party and learned about her dad.

Serve yogurt with a sign that says, "Careful!" like Alice and Nick's private joke after Elisabeth told them, "You have to be really careful with yogurt." (p. 59)

The book was printed in 2009 and Alice comically refers to "current events" that are long since forgotten to me, like Brad Pitt and Gwenyth Paltrow or the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  Search for current events dated ten years before the day of your club meeting and make small talk as guests arrive as if it was all current.

Serve Thai food in honor of how Nick and Alice first met.

Serve homemade hamburgers like Alice made for her kids homecoming Sunday night, with grated carrots and zucchini.

Serve wine.

Serve lasagna - like Madison had wanted to make when she came home Sunday night.

Serve fancy coffee, like the flat white, and hang up a sign that says "Dino's".

Serve curried egg sandwiches like at the Family Talent Night, along with pikelets and scones.  Serve coffee and tea in paper cups.

Serve Black Forest Cake like Madison made for the "Food from Different Cultures Day" that wound up in Chloe's face.

Display tulips like Dominick and Nick brought to Alice the day before mega-meringue.

Serve chocolate biscuits like Alice ate frequently.  Pair with wine and cheese as Nick brought.

Serve salsa as a tribute to the salsa dancing.
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