My book club’s choice for May was by Liane Moriarty, who is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I had read The Husband’s Secret a few months back and suggested What Alice Forgot selfishly, so that I would have an opportunity to read it and discuss.
The story is about Alice (clearly); following an incident at the gym, Alice has amnesia. Interestingly, she thinks she is in her 20s with her first child on the way. She can’t figure out why in the world she was at the gym or why those closest to her, including her husband, are acting oddly with her when she reaches out from the hospital. In actuality, Alice is now about to turn 40 with three children and an impending divorce. Without giving much else away, suffice it to say that Alice has changed quite a bit over the years and simply can’t believe it when she hears how she – and things in her life – have changed so dramatically.
This, of course, was great fodder for a book club discussion. If you were going to sent back to any age, what would it be? For me, this was a tough one. Part of me would probably enjoy being back in my early twenties but there was a lot of angst and upheaval in my life at that time that I’d really rather not relive. And frankly, I’m happier and more “me” than I’ve ever been right now. That’s certainly not to say things are perfect; far from it. But I think I’ve grown and matured so I deal and cope with those things differently. I can recognize that I am resilient now and I’m certain I couldn’t say that about younger me.
The other deep question that came out of our discussion was this: what would surprise your 20 year old self about your life today? There was a lot of quiet reflection on this one; some chose not to share. I think emotions were running fairly high and this could have proven to be a tipping point. I had no trouble finding my answer. My younger self would be stunned, frankly stunned, to learn what it is I do for a living. As long as I can remember growing up, once I got passed the weekly ever-changing dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up (teacher, lawyer, firefighter), which were all fairly dependent on what we were learning about in school or who had come to visit our class that week, I wanted to be a writer. Any opportunity to write a story or even a paper felt like a win to me. In high school, I was on the school paper – first, writing sports which, if you know anything about me, was rather ridiculous. But I did it because it was what I was assigned and because I got to write. I worked on the paper all through high school, managing to be co-editor with my best friend of the time our senior year. I wrote creatively a bit as well during that time but the goal and all I worked toward was journalism.
Each year, our newspaper adviser packed us in her station wagon and drove us to downtown Philly for a high school press competition at Temple University. It was there that I decided where I was going to college – there was no question. I applied elsewhere because I felt like I should “in case” but I was accepted into Temple’s journalism program by September 9 of my senior year in high school and it was done deal. I was going to a writer!
But as I started classes and heard what the real life of a journalist often was, I started to doubt myself. I started to wonder how or if I could make it. I had no desire to write obituaries or real estate postings for my livelihood. I wanted to write exciting things, to chase stories that made a difference.
But time and time again I was told that I’d have to start at the bottom…and the bottom held no appeal to me. So when the time came to pick a concentration, I went with the “safe” bet and chose public relations. Little did I know, until I had my first PR job, how difficult THAT could be. Oh, I could write a heck of a press release but I loathed pitching the story to editors and, even more than that, I loathed that any placement I got us was never enough (not even The Today Show or CNN; come on!!) And so when the opportunity arose to move into planning healthcare events full-time, I was more than happy to do so. But my 20 year old self? She’d be shocked, appalled, and probably more than a little let down.
I won’t give away the end of What Alice Forgot. It’s got some twists and turns and in some ways, I was surprised by how completely unsurprising parts were – but isn’t that true to life? I’d give this book two thumbs up and definitely recommend it for summer reading…but I’d also recommend you spend some time thinking on the questions posed above. I’d love to hear your thoughts.