This was alright. I'd read The Husband's Secret, and I thought this one was much better as it's dealing with a slightly smaller cast of characters. I liked "young" Alice from the off, and it was nice to be inside her head. The plot isn't terribly original but it putters along nicely and as I was reading this while I couldn't sleep, I wasn't in the mood for anything that was reinventing the wheel.
I think, for me, the key flaw was that we never really found out what the spark for Alice turning into a super-(obnoxious)-mum was. I understood that she changed over the course of having three children and doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting in terms of caring for them. I also understood that meeting Gina
had an effect on her behaviour as regarded herself. However, I felt that none of this was really sufficiently explored. It's strongly implied and I think actually outright stated that Alice's behaviour around about the time of the birth of her third child is not much different from her behaviour as "young" Alice, and I can't see why the thing in the above spoiler would turn her into some kind of crazy obsessive mother. It's unclear how long her completely insane and unhealthy behaviour has been going on and why she would change from being a seemingly normal but flawed mother into a weird Stepford nightmare. I mean, Nick seems like a bit of a dick, but I kind of couldn't blame him for a lot of the stuff she cited as a problem. Like, why was he supposed to dump Mike as a friend after he cheated? Don't most people understand that when you're friends with someone and your spouse is also friends with them, and then you split up, the other person might feel a bit awkward? Like, Mike didn't do anything wrong to Nick. You can disagree with someone's actions and still be their friend! Also, regarding Gina's funeral - if Alice wanted him there so badly, why didn't she just put on her big girl pants and TELL HIM THAT?! She explicitly makes him feel like he shouldn't want to go, and then blames it on him. Similarly, Nick seems to go from a normal guy to a career nut with no explanation. Nothing in the way his character is explained to begin with indicates that he has any interest at all in his own career, then, BOOM, he's a CEO or something. What?!
Alice is genuinely one of the most frustrating characters I've ever come across, and the worst of it is that I don't even understand how she became that way.
Regarding the ending it was rushed. I really didn't enjoy the way she gets all of her memories back, and, once again, I didn't really feel like it was necessarily a positive. Alice just seems like a horrible person to be around, and Gina also seems like a miserable, petty, irritant. I just disliked everything about "now" Alice, and I think my least favourite part was how Alice actually seemed proud of becoming a miserable spoilt bratty cow. I could go on and on and on about how, apart from Gina dying, none of her problems are actual problems that couldn't be solved without her TALKING ABOUT THEM IN A REASONABLE MANNER. Alice is just so much kinder, more understanding, more empathetic in her younger form. She hasn't learned anything over those ten years except how to be an awful human being and the worst thing is that she takes it out on her children. She is a genuinely awful mother.
On the children I really sympathised with Madison. She's bratty, yeah, but unlike her mother, she's a child and she's gone through a lot. I hated that Alice made her favouritism towards her other children, in particular Olivia, so clear. At least Madison seems real, even if she is annoying. The middle child might as well not be there for all the attention that gets paid to him - oh, he has dialogue, but god forbid anyone do anything but quickly acknowledge him and move on. Olivia is sickening and I wish she hadn't been in the book because every word out of her mouth made me want to vomit.
But I can't end this review without talking about Elisabeth. Oh, Elisabeth. I wish this novel had been about you. Yes, you were bratty and ill-tempered, and possibly moderately mad, but I Felt everything you felt, and understood everything that you were going through, despite never having been there myself. Your pain was so visceral and real and I couldn't have been happier when you got the ending you deserved; although in some ways I think the braver narrative choice would have been to have her remain infertile, I couldn't begrudge the only real-seeming adult character happiness.
No more Liane Moriarty for me, which is a shame, because she can write. It's just a pity the vast majority of her characters are completely vacuous and insufferable.