Review: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Title: Turn of Mind

Author: Alice LaPlante

Published: Bons Street Books July 2011 {ARC courtesy Grove/Atlantic Books/NetGalley}

Synopsis: Is the perfect murder the one you can’t forget or the one you can’t remember? Dr. Jennifer White, a brilliant former surgeon in the early grips of Alzheimer’s, is suspected of murdering her best friend, Amanda. Amanda’s body was found brutally disfigured — with four of her fingers cut off in a precise, surgical manner. As the police pursue their investigation and Jennifer searches her own mind for fractured clues to Amanda’s death, a portrait emerges of a complex relationship between two uncompromising, unsentimental women, lifelong friends who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries

Status: Read from June 23 to 25, 2011 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Turn of Mind is a stunning fictional debut that I found to be compelling reading. Jennifer White is struggling to remain in the present, as dementia claims who she once was, and is. Once a successful surgeon, she is now in the care of a live in housekeeper and slipping in and out of awareness. When Jennifer’s best friend of more than thirty years, Amanda, is murdered, she is the primary suspect, but she remembers nothing of the last time she saw her. As the Alzheimer’s progresses, Jennifer recalls her past and reveals her complicated relationship with not only the victim, but also her husband and children. Turn of Mind is much more than a simple mystery, it examines the impact of dementia on an intelligent woman and her family.

The first person narrative is incredibly powerful, allowing the reader to witness Jennifer’s tragic decline from the sufferers perspective. It particularly resonated for me because my grandfather, who just recently passed away, was also affected by Alzheimer’s and it is such a cruel and difficult disease that affects all involved. Jennifer is not really a likable character. She may have been a great surgeon, but she was not a warm person and perhaps even a poor mother and wife. Yet the creeping loss of her intellect and awareness demands pity and her strength in the face of it earns admiration. LaPlante’s portrayal of Jennifer’s confusion and fear amidst moments of clarity is realistic (in my experience), and is sympathetically handled. The shifts between lucidity and disorientation, memory and present, are skillfully written and I didn’t find it difficult to follow.

Near the end of the novel, the narrative changes perspective, demonstrating Jennifer’s disassociation from her own life as the disease overwhelms her. It is an unusual, even brave, yet wholly appropriate technique that clearly communicates Jennifer’s separation from her her own mind.

The reactions of Jennifer’s children also held true for me. Fiona mourns the loss of her mother even while she still lives, despite their complicated relationship. Mark illustrates the frustration that is part of dealing with a relative with Alzheimer’s, exaggerated by his own failings. I didn’t really like either of them, I thought both their motivations suspect for different reasons throughout the novel – especially their financial greed.

Amanda, the victim, was the least sympathetic character of the lot. Bitter and sly, as shown during Jennifer’s memory slips, I wasn’t very affected by her death. The mystery of her assailant’s identity did add suspense to the novel however and I was unsure as to who was responsible nearly the entire way through.

Turn of Mind is a impressive and original novel that uses an engaging storyline to explore the tragedy of dementia. This is a novel that is sure to linger in your mind beyond the turn of the last page.

Available to PreOrder

@ Amazon

@ BookDepository

@ Booktopia (Australia)

@ Boomerang Books (Australia)

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Six Degrees of Separation: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland to Putting Alice Back Together | book'd out

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