Everyone loves a good “losing your mind” story! Or maybe that’s just me…
There’s just something really fascinating about the way that the brain works. I’m enthralled by people on talk shows who claim that they remember every single detail of every single day of their lives–apparently, having a perfect memory is a bothersome medical condition. They literally can’t forget anything–even the most painful experiences are remembered as if they happened yesterday. I’m equally intrigued by people who have forgotten major details of their lives. How much can they remember? Why did they forget? No matter how many advances we make in science, doctors still don’t often have an explanation for these things. In the medical world, I suppose the brain is the final frontier.
I recently finished an audiobook (the one nice thing about having a long work commute) featuring a character who has amnesia. I was startled to realize that this was the third novel I’ve read in a year with an amnesiac as a protagonist. Why so many? Maybe I was feeling unfulfilled after watching the Rachel McAdams/Channing Tatum matchup in The Vow. Maybe I’m just “crazy” about amnesiac stories…haha. 😛 Either way, I thought I’d give you a brief review of each one, in case you’re as crazy as I am.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I’m going to go ahead and reveal that this was my favorite of the three. Maybe simply because it was the first one that I read, or maybe because it seemed the most realistic…I’m not sure. It’s set in Australia in the year 2007. The year is important because a 39-year-old Alice living in the year 2007 gets bonked on the head during an intense cycling class at the gym, and suddenly wakes up believing that she’s 29 and it’s the year 1997. There’s a lot that Alice has forgotten during those ten years. For one thing, she was pregnant at age 29 with her first child, who is now ten years old and sassy/grumpy as ever. Plus she has two younger children who she doesn’t even remember having. Plus she’s in the midst of a divorce with a husband who she only remembers being madly in love with. Plus, she’s about six dress sizes smaller than she remembers being at age 29. Basically…there’s a lot that Alice has forgotten. Add to that all of the technological advancements and changes in society and pop culture that we’ve had since 1997. Do you remember the computer you were using in 1997? Or the cell phone (if you even had one? And if you did, I bet it was a “car phone” with a spiral cord). Getting to see the world through the eyes of someone who’s “time traveled” from the year 1997 was pretty amusing. And watching Alice piece together the past ten years and come to terms with the person she’s become was pretty heartwrenching. I highly recommend this one.
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
As all Sophie Kinsella books, this one is a fun, quick read, but it doesn’t dig quite as deep as What Alice Forgot. Much like the first novel, 28-year-old British protagonist Lexi Smart has bonked herself on the head and lost the last three years of her memory. She’s startled to find that a lot has changed during those three years. She used to have buck teeth and look kind of a mess, but all that is different now. She looks a lot skinnier and her wardrobe looks more fashionable. Her teeth are gleeming and perfect. Her closet is full of expensive designer clothing. She’s married to a wealthy, magazine-cover-worthy man and she’s wearing a giant rock on her left hand. Even though she can’t remember how on earth she managed to get here, she doesn’t care. It’s all so perfect–like a strange Cinderella story. Or is it? Why won’t her old friends answer her phone calls or speak to her anymore? Why does everyone at her office (which she is apparently in charge of now, by the way) seem to hate her? Why does her husband have a brooding, attractive colleague who seems strangely put out that she doesn’t remember him? It’s interesting to watch Lexi piece her life back together, almost like collecting clues and solving a mystery. This is the only amnesiac novel I read this year in which the amnesiac never fully recovers her memory. It also wins the prize for most interesting plot twist because Lexi was actually a contestant in a reality show (think a knock-off version of The Apprentice) during her “lost” years, and she’s able to sit down in the living room and watch episodes of footage. It’s not my favorite Sophie Kinsella novel, but still a fun sit-by-the-fire read.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
This is the only young adult novel in the group, though it’s reminscent of the other two stories. 17-year-old Naomi Porter (you guessed it!) fell down the stairs and bonked her head, and she wakes up without any recollection of the last five years of her life. She doesn’t remember high school, or where in the lunch room she usually sits. She doesn’t remember any of her new friends, or even her jock boyfriend Ace. She doesn’t remember wearing the formal gown in her closet to the Homecoming Dance, and she doesn’t remember the boy named Will who claims to be her best friend in the world. She definitely doesn’t remember her mother’s affair or her parent’s divorce, and she doesn’t remember being elected as editor of the school yearbook. The interesting thing about Naomi is that she doesn’t neccessarily want to remember. She’s not sure what she ever saw in her boyfriend Ace and she hates the “friends” she sits with at lunch. She can’t figure out why she ever liked yearbook and wanted to spend her life designing pages for it every day after school. She certainly doesn’t want to learn more about her mom’s affair–she’d rather not think about it. So Naomi uses her amnesia as a clean slate, and she sets out to re-start her life. Only to find that the past always catches up with you…even if you’re an amnesiac.
It was interesting to read the amnesia story from an adolescent perspective. Most adults who lose their memories attempt to fit back into the routine as soon as possible, but of course a rebellious teenager would rise aganist a life that seemed already planned out for her. It was also interesting to see how Naomi dealt with losing such important adolescent years. It seems like she would have the mentality of a twelve-year-old, but she really didn’t. However, she did struggle with certain school subjects like French and science. However, she remembered everything from math. I’m not sure why the author wrote it out that way, but I’m sure Ms. Zevin did her research. Overall, this was my least favorite amnesiac story…but then again, maybe I just need to take a break from the head cases for awhile. 😉