As the novel begins, Alice falls and hits her head during a spinning class, and wakes up believing she is a newly wed 29 year old, slightly plump, laid back and serene, deeply in love with her husband and very close to her sister. In fact, she is 39 and has amnesia for the events of the past 10 years. She has forgotten she has 3 young children, a rigorous routine of intense exercise, rigid dieting, excessive shopping, and time consuming volunteer work. She is barely in contact with her sister, and is in the final stages of an acrimonious divorce from her husband. She has forgotten she is deeply grieving the accidental death of her best friend, whom her younger self doesn’t even know, and lashing out at everyone around her.
During much of the novel, she is trying to remember her children and her friend, and understand, in bewilderment, what could possibly have gone so wrong in her relationships with her husband and her sister.
(Spoiler Alert) Her memory eventually comes back, but she isn’t the same as she was before the accident because she can access the thoughts and feelings of her younger self with as much immediacy as those of her current self. “Now it seemed like she could twist the lens on her life and see it from two entirely different perspectives.”
This dual vision lets her remember all the times her husband was there for her as well as her bitter feeling of abandonment. Her affection and longing for her sister motivates her to reach beyond their current estrangement. Her loving approach leads them to respond to her differently, and the relationships are renewed and strengthened as a result.
She allows her younger self to influence her daily life as well, balancing her compulsive, driven activity with some gentleness and relaxation. “Finally she stopped resisting and called a truce. Young Alice could stay as long as she didn’t eat too much chocolate.”
We often think about conflict and differences between two individuals, but the main conflict in this novel was not between Alice and significant others, but between Alice at 29 and at 39. By negotiating between her two selves, and honoring their wisdom, by remembering what she cherished about people she had been close to, she creates a new life that has the best of both her worlds. Awareness, forgiveness, letting go, and balance are key.
Note: Quotations are from page 402 of the novel, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moariarty.
Lorraine Segal provides one on one communication coaching, training, and mediation by telephone and face to face. Her business, Conflict Remedy is based in Santa Rosa California. She also teaches in the conflict resolution program at Sonoma State University.
To schedule a free initial telephone consultation or get more information, you can reach Lorraine at (707) 236-8079, firstname.lastname@example.org or through this blog.
© Lorraine Segal http://www.ConflictRemedy.com