Turn of Mind

Turn of Mind

by Alice LaPlante

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Overview

A New York Times bestseller, Turn of Mind is a literary thriller about a retired orthopedic surgeon suffering from dementia and accused of killing her best friend. With unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante's debut novel brings us deep into a brilliant woman’s deteriorating mind, where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

When the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed from her hand. Dr. White is the prime suspect and she herself doesn’t know whether she did it. Told in White’s own voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these life-long friends—two proud, forceful women who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries. As the investigation into the murder deepens and White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her hide it?

A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss, Turn of Mind examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802145901
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 284,887
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ALICE LAPLANTE teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University and Stanford University, where she has a Wallace Stegner fellowship. Her accolades include a Transatlantic Review fiction prize. She has been published in Epoch, Southwestern Review, and other literary journals, and her nonfiction has appeared in Forbes ASAP, Discover and BusinessWeek. She has written four books of nonfiction. This is her first novel. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Something has happened. You can always tell. You come to and find wreckage: a smashed lamp, a devastated human face that shivers on the verge of being recognizable. Occasionally someone in uniform: a paramedic, a nurse. A hand extended with a pill. Or poised to insert a needle.

This time, I am in a room, sitting on a cold metal folding chair. The room is not familiar, but I am used to that. I look for clues. An office-like setting, long and crowded with desks and computers, messy with papers. No windows.

I can barely make out the pale green of the walls, so many posters, clippings, and bulletins tacked up. Fluorescent lighting casting a pall. Men and women talking; to one another, not to me. Some wearing baggy suits, some in jeans. And more uniforms. My guess is that a smile would be inappropriate. Fear might not be.

* * *

I can still read, I'm not that far gone, not yet. No books anymore, but newspaper articles. Magazine pieces, if they're short enough. I have a system. I take a sheet of lined paper. I write down notes, just like in medical school.

When I get confused, I read my notes. I refer back to them. I can take two hours to get through a single Tribune article, half a day to get through The New York Times. Now, as I sit at the table, I pick up a paper someone discarded, a pencil. I write in the margins as I read. These are Band-Aid solutions. The violent flare-ups continue. They have reaped what they sowed and should repent.

Afterward, I look at these notes but am left with nothing but a sense of unease, of uncontrol. A heavy man in blue is hovering, his hand inches away from my upper arm. Ready to grab. Restrain.

* * *

Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

I want to go home. I want to go home. Am I in Philadelphia. There was the house on Walnut Lane. We played kickball in the streets.

No, this is Chicago. Ward Forty-three, Precinct Twenty-one. We have called your son and daughter. You can decide at any time from this moment on to terminate the interview and exercise these rights.

I wish to terminate. Yes.

* * *

A large sign is taped to the kitchen wall. The words, written in thick black marker in a tremulous hand, slope off the poster board: My name is Dr. Jennifer White. I am sixty-four years old. I have dementia. My son, Mark, is twenty-nine. My daughter, Fiona, twenty-four. A caregiver, Magdalena, lives with me.

It is all clear. So who are all these other people in my house? People, strangers, everywhere. A blond woman I don't recognize in my kitchen drinking tea. A glimpse of movement from the den. Then I turn the corner into the living room and find yet another face. I ask, So who are you? Who are all the others? Do you know her? I point to the kitchen, and they laugh.

I am her, they say. I was there, now I'm here. I am the only one in the house other than you. They ask if I want tea. They ask if I want to go for a walk. Am I a baby? I say. I am tired of the questions. You know me, don't you? Don't you remember? Magdalena. Your friend.

* * *

The notebook is a way of communicating with myself, and with others. Of filling in the blank periods. When all is in a fog, when someone refers to an event or conversation that I can't recall, I leaf through the pages. Sometimes it comforts me to read what's there. Sometimes not. It is my Bible of consciousness. It lives on the kitchen table: large and square, with an embossed leather cover and heavy creamy paper. Each entry has a date on it. A nice lady sits me down in front of it.

She writes, January 20, 2009. Jennifer's notes. She hands the pen to me. She says, Write what happened today. Write about your childhood. Write whatever you remember.

I remember my first wrist arthrodesis. The pressure of scalpel against skin, the slight give when it finally sliced through. The resilience of muscle. My surgical scissors scraping bone. And afterward, peeling off bloody gloves finger by finger.

* * *

Black. Everyone is wearing black. They're walking in twos and threes down the street toward St. Vincent's, bundled in coats and scarves that cover their heads and lower faces against what is apparently bitter wind.

I am inside my warm house, my face to the frosted window, Magdalena hovering. I can just see the twelve-foot carved wooden doors. They are wide open, and people are entering. A hearse is standing in front, other cars lined up behind it, their lights on.

It's Amanda, Magdalena tells me. Amanda's funeral. Who is Amanda? I ask. Magdalena hesitates, then says, Your best friend. Your daughter's godmother.

I try. I fail. I shake my head. Magdalena gets my notebook. She turns back the pages. She points to a newspaper clipping:

Elderly Chicago Woman Found Dead, Mutilated

CHICAGO TRIBUNE — February 23, 2009

CHICAGO, IL — The mutilated body of a seventy-five-year-old Chicago woman was discovered yesterday in a house in the 2100 block of Sheffield Avenue.

Amanda O'Toole was found dead in her home after a neighbor noticed she had failed to take in her newspapers for almost a week, according to sources close to the investigation. Four fingers on her right hand had been severed. The exact time of death is unknown, but cause of death is attributed to head trauma, sources say.

Nothing was reported missing from her house.

No one has been charged, but police briefly took into custody and then released a person of interest in the case.

I try. But I cannot conjure up anything. Magdalena leaves. She comes back with a photograph.

Two women, one taller by at least two inches, with long straight white hair pulled back in a tight chignon. The other one, younger, has shorter wavy gray locks that cluster around chiseled, more feminine features. That one a beauty perhaps, once upon a time.

This is you, Magdalena says, pointing to the younger woman. And this here, this is Amanda. I study the photograph.

The taller woman has a compelling face. Not what you'd call pretty. Nor what you would call nice. Too sharp around the nostrils, lines of perhaps contempt etched into the jowls. The two women stand close together, not touching, but there is an affinity there.

Try to remember, Magdalena urges me. It could be important. Her hand lies heavily on my shoulder. She wants something from me. What? But I am suddenly tired. My hands shake. Perspiration trickles down between my breasts.

I want to go to my room, I say. I swat at Magdalena's hand. Leave me be.

* * *

Amanda? Dead? I cannot believe it. My dear, dear friend. Second mother to my children. My ally in the neighborhood. My sister.

If not for Amanda, I would have been alone. I was different. Always apart. The cheese stands alone.

Not that anyone knew. They were fooled by surfaces, so easy to dupe. No one understood weaknesses like Amanda. She saw me, saved me from my secret solitude. And where was I when she needed me? Here. Three doors down. Wallowing in my woes. While she suffered. While some monster brandished a knife, pushed in for the kill.

O the pain! So much pain. I will stop swallowing my pills. I will take my scalpel to my brain and eviscerate her image. And I will beg for exactly that thing I've been battling all these long months: sweet oblivion.

* * *

The nice lady writes in my notebook. She signs her name: Magdalena. Today, Friday, March 11, was another bad day. You kicked the step and broke your toe. At the emergency room you escaped into the parking lot. An orderly brought you back. You spat on him.

The shame.

* * *

This half state. Life in the shadows. As the neurofibrillary tangles proliferate, as the neuritic plaques harden, as synapses cease to fire and my mind rots out, I remain aware. An unanesthetized patient.

Every death of every cell pricks me where I am most tender. And people I don't know patronize me. They hug me. They attempt to hold my hand. They call me prepubescent nicknames: Jen. Jenny. I bitterly accept the fact that I am famous, beloved even, among strangers. A celebrity!

A legend in my own mind.

* * *

My notebook lately has been full of warnings. Mark very angry today. He hung up on me. Magdalena says do not speak to anyone who calls. Do not answer the door when she's doing laundry or in the bathroom.

Then, in a different handwriting, Mom, you are not safe with Mark. Give the medical power of attorney to me, Fiona. It is best to have medical andfinancial powers of attorney in the same hands anyway. Some things are crossed out, no, obliterated, with a thick black pen. By whom?

* * *

My notebook again:

Mark called, says my money will not save me. I must listen to him. That there are other actions we must take to protect me.

Then: Mom, I sold $50,000 worth of IBM stock for the lawyer's retainer. She comes highly recommended for cases where mental competency is an issue. They have no evidence, only theories. Dr. Tsien has put you on 150 mg of Seroquel to curb the episodes. I will come again tomorrow, Saturday. Your daughter, Fiona.

* * *

I belong to an Alzheimer's support group. People come and they go.

This morning Magdalena says it is an okay day, we can try to attend. The group meets in a Methodist church on Clark, squat and gray with clapboard walls and garish primary-colored stained-glass windows.

We gather in the Fellowship Lounge, a large room with windows that don't open and speckled linoleum floors bearing the scuff marks of the metal folding chairs. A motley crew, perhaps half a dozen of us, our minds in varying states of undress. Magdalena waits outside the door of the room with the other caregivers. They line up on benches in the dark hallway, knitting and speaking softly among themselves, but attentive, prepared to leap up and take their charges away at the first hint of trouble.

Our leader is a young man with a social-worker degree. He has a kind and ineffectual face, and likes to start with introductions and a joke.

My-name-is-I-forgot-and-I-am-an-I-don't-know-what. He refers to what we do as the Two Circular Steps. Step One is admitting you have a problem. Step Two is forgetting you have the problem.

It gets a laugh every time, from some because they remember the joke from the last meeting, but from most because it's new to them, no matter how many times they've heard it.

Today is a good day for me. I remember it. I would even add a third step: Step Three is remembering that you forget. Step Three is the hardest of all.

Today we discuss attitude. This is what the leader calls it. You've all received this extraordinarily distressing diagnosis, he says. You are all intelligent, educated people. You know you are running out of time. What you do with it is up to you. Be positive! Having Alzheimer's can be like going to a party where you don't happen to know anyone. Think of it! Every meal can be the best meal of your life! Every movie the most enthralling you've ever seen! Have a sense of humor, he says. You are a visitor from another planet, and you are observing the local customs.

But what about the rest of us, for whom the walls are closing in? Whom change has always terrified? At thirteen I stopped eating for a week because my mother bought new sheets for my bed. For us, life is now terribly dangerous. Hazards lie around every corner. So you nod to all the strangers who force themselves upon you. You laugh when others laugh, look serious when they do. When people ask do you remember you nod some more. Or frown at first, then let your face light up in recognition.

All this is necessary for survival. I am a visitor from another planet, and the natives are not friendly.

* * *

I open my mail myself. Then it disappears. Whisked away. Today, pleas for help to save the whales, save the pandas, free Tibet.

My bank statement shows that I have $3,567.89 in a Bank of America checking account. There is another statement from a stockbroker, Michael Brownstein. My name is on the top. My assets have declined 19 percent in the last six months. They apparently now total $2.56 million. He includes a note: It is not as bad as it could have been due to your conservative investment choices and a broad portfolio diversification strategy.

Is $2.56 million a lot of money? Is it enough? I stare at the letters on the page until they blur. AAPL, IBM, CVR, ASF, SFR. The secret language of money.

* * *

James is sly. James has secrets. Some I am privy to, more I am not. Where is he today? The children are at school. The house is empty except for a woman who seems to be a sort of housekeeper. She is straightening the books in the den, humming a tune I don't recognize. Did James hire her? Likely. Someone must be keeping things in order, for the house looks well tended, and I have always been hostile to housework, and James, although a compulsive tidier, is too busy. Always out and about. On undercover missions. Like now. Amanda doesn't approve. Marriages should be transparent, she says. They must withstand the glare of full sunlight. But James is a shadowy man. He needs cover, flourishes in the dark. James himself explained it long ago, concocted the perfect metaphor. Or rather, he plucked it from nature. And although I am suspicious of too-neat categorizations, this one rang true. It was a hot humid day in summer, at James's boyhood home in North Carolina. Before we were married. We'd gone for an after-dinner walk in the waning light and just two hundred yards away from his parents' back porch found ourselves deep in a primeval forest, dark with trees that dripped white moss, our footsteps muffled by the dead leaves that blanketed the ground. Pockets of ferns unfurled through the debris and the occasional mushroom gleamed. James gestured. Poisonous, he said. As he spoke, a bird called. Otherwise, silence. If there was a path, I couldn't see it, but James steadily moved ahead and magically a way forward appeared in front of us. We'd gone perhaps a quarter of a mile, the light diminishing minute by minute, when James stopped. He pointed. At the foot of a tree, amid a mass of yellow green moss, something glowed a ghostly white. A flower, a single flower on a long white stalk. James let out a breath. We're lucky, he said. Sometimes you can search for days and not find one.

And what is it? I asked. The flower emitted its own light, so strong that several small insects were circling around it, as if attracted by the glare.

A ghost plant, James said. Monotropa uniflora. He stooped down and cupped the flower in his hand, being careful not to disengage it from its stalk. It's one of the few plants that doesn't need light. It actually grows in the dark.

How is that possible? I asked.

It's a parasite — it doesn't photosynthesize but feeds off the fungus and the trees around it, lets others do the hard work. I've always felt a kinship to it. Admiration, even. Because it's not easy — that's why they don't propagate widely. The plant has to find the right host, and conditions must be exactly right for it to flourish. But when it does flourish, it is truly spectacular. He let go of the flower and stood up.

Yes, I can see that, I said.

Can you? James asked. Can you really?

Yes, I repeated, and the word hung in the heavy moist air between us, like a promise. A vow.

Shortly after this trip, we quietly got married at the Evanston courthouse. We didn't invite anyone, it would have felt like an intrusion. The clerk was a witness, and it was over in five minutes. On the whole, a good decision. But on days like today, when I feel James's absence like a wound, I long to be back in those woods, which somehow remain as fresh and strong in my mind as the day we were there. I could reach out and pluck that flower, present it to James when he comes back. A dark trophy.

* * *

I am in the office of a Carl Tsien. A doctor. My doctor, it seems. A slight, balding man. Pale, in the way that only someone who spends his time indoors under artificial light can be. A benevolent face. We apparently know each other well.

He speaks about former students. He uses the word our. Our students. He says I should be proud. That I have left the university and the hospital an invaluable legacy. I shake my head. I am too tired to pretend, having had a bad night. A pacing night. Back and forth, back and forth, from bathroom to bedroom to bathroom and back again. Counting footsteps, beating a steady rhythm against the tile, the hardwood flooring. Pacing until the soles of my feet ached.

But this office tickles my memory. Although I don't know this doctor, somehow I am intimate with his possessions. A model of a human skull on his desk. Someone has painted lipstick on its bony maxilla to approximate lips, and a crude label underneath it reads simply, MAD CARLOTTA. I know that skull. I know that handwriting. He sees me looking. Your jokes were always a little obscure, he says.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Turn Of Mind"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Alice LaPlante.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Turn of Mind 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 155 reviews.
DrDyslexia More than 1 year ago
Having a mother who passed away from dementia, this topic intrigued me and never disappointed. It is certainly a thriller and with the main character's children talking about her in the background, her declining level of awareness, the reader's knowledge of what is going on, I couldn't wait to get back to see what would happen next. At times, I felt as confused as Jennifer, the main character. I cried as I read parts of Jennifer's story, remembering what our family went through as my mother's mind lost its battle with this terrible disease. What I found at the core of LaPlante's first novel is what my family found, too - love. Somehow, the mind knows, in spite of the cobwebbed memories and great cognitive loss as well as warped friendship/s and well meaning people, love perseveres. I hope this is the first of many great novels for LaPlante; I look forward to reading more from her. I would recommend to those who want a glimpse into dementia and how this devastating disease takes its toll on not only the individual but on those around her. Book discussions would enjoy the mystery and with the 'Sandwich generation' this should generate much discussion for Baby Boomers for sure!!
theReader278 More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Alice LaPlante and I don't regret giving it a try. The story is fantastic, the characters are very well developed. Can only recommend.
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
I really, really enjoyed Turn of Mind. Alice LaPlante has done a phenomenal job of taking us into the daily life of an intelligent woman stricken with a horrible, horrible disease. We stay with Jennifer as her mind deteriorates, but it is her brief moments of clarity that give us insight into what really happened the day that Amanda was killed. Did Jennifer really murder her oldest, dearest friend, or is someone close to her taking advantage of her Dementia? Alice LaPlante has taken this murder mystery to a whole new level. If you love a good murder mystery, don't let this one pass you by!
Lannie More than 1 year ago
"Turn of the Mind" is nothing short of amazing. "Something has happened." The first line raises a question that makes it impossible not to have the reader's curiosity peeked and then on to first-person point of view of Dr. Jennifer White, herself, who is a 64 year old retired hand surgeon with a grave problem, actually two grave problems. Her mind is disintegrating with Alzheimer's and Jennifer's best friend, Amanda, who lives three houses down the street, has been murdered .. and four fingers of her hand have been amputated, obviously by the hand of a surgeon. This book is heartbreaking, haunting and chilling. Masterfully written with vivid prose, this storyline is painfully sad, but also totally electrifying. This is a gripping, compelling who-done-it with another major foreground concern, the process of forgetting and the complexity of being aware of yourself disappearing. This is a brilliant piece of work. I'm sure this book will move to bigger and better things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written account of a woman losing her grasp of reality. Written from first person perspective, you can intimately feel what she's experiencing and thinking. Someimes the story is disjointed and can be confusing, but overall it holds up well. I would definitely recommend this book for some quick weekend reading. It has a hard hitting message about aging and mental health but isn't preachy or condescending.
Read_A_Book More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry to say that I didn't care for this novel. Told through the first person narrative of Dr. Jennifer White, the reader is given a firsthand glimpse of the rapid deterioration that dementia has on the mind. While anything other than the first person narrative would have left much to be desired within the novel, the narrative itself is extremely heartbreaking and, at times, difficult to follow. I have never met anyone with dementia, but LaPlante has created an all too real account of what it's like inside the mind of someone suffering from this disease as they rapidly go from one thought to the next, only to lose the previous one. While there is much suspense and mystery surrounding the death of Jennifer's friend Amanda, I did find the novel overly repetitive at times, which only makes sense since Jennifer is constantly relearning the same information. However, repetition of events, especially sad ones, isn't really my forte. As I like more upbeat, happy novels, this was somewhat of a downer for me, as the treatment of Jennifer by her family, along with her own lapse of memories, creates a depressing tone and left me feeling dejected in the end, especially as the deterioration of Jennifer's mind increased. However, LePlante's revelation of the murderer does make it a worthwhile read--I never saw it coming. So, if you don't mind a little repetition and sadness that accompanies dementia, then I recommend you read this novel. Two and half stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having just lost my Dad to this horrid disease, it was a chance to see perhaps how he processed thoughts. I think the author nailed it. It gave me some insight as to why he did some things and what might have been his reasonings. That said; oh, my! What twists this book took. I was pretty sure who HADN'T done it; but I never saw who HAD. There are characters that aren't very likable - that's ok; real life is populated with them as well. I didn't like the way the story turned out - perhaps wishing for a happy ending because it was a book was too much to hope for, but it was probably more realistic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alice LaPlante gives us a startling glimpse into the rapidly failing memory of Dr. Jennifer White a retired orthopedic surgeon suffering from Alzheimer’s and by extension a glimpse into the all too real experience of its sufferers. Currently observing a relative struggling with the disease I found LaPlante’s behavioral depictions spot on. Imagine your own memory fleeing by bits and pieces while you cannot quite remember names and/or faces of relatives and friends once dear to you. You record or have someone record your daily life in a journal in a desperate attempt to hold onto what is left of your memory. Depressing – yes – but LaPlante provides relief by introducing an exciting “who done it” murder mystery into the plot. For me the murder mystery served this purpose well yet it also oddly symbolizes the effects of the disease itself…murder, of the mind and mystery, about its causes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could have been so much better. Just okay.
BookDivasReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a haunting and tragic tale of murder and one women's mental descension due to Alzheimers. Most of the story is written in the first person and we are allowed to witness, if not participate, in the often chaotic thoughts and actions of Jennifer White MD. Jennifer is in her early 60s, a retired orthopedic surgeon (specialty is hand surgery), widow, mother of two children, and a collector of religious art. Her son, Mark McLennan, is an attorney as was his father James. Her daughter, Fiona, is an economist and exhibits signs of manic episodes. Her son has been given medical power of attorney over her care and her daughter is given financial power of attorney. Other characters that are woven into the story include Magdelena, Jennifer's full-time, live-in caregiver, and Amanda O'Toole a former teacher, Fiona's godmother, reputedly Jennifer's best friend, and the murder victim.Jennifer's story is divided into four sections and in each we see her decline to point that she suffers a "death of the mind." Section one is immediately after the murder and Jennifer has more moments of lucidity but also has moments of aggression and confusion interspersed with memories of the past. One moment she realizes that her husband James is deceased and the next she is waiting for him to arrive home from work. One moment she is thinking about why Amanda hasn't come over for coffee or to talk and the next she is reminded of her death and grieves. It is often just as difficult on the reader to see her grieve for Amanda repeatedly as she is reminded that her friend is gone. It seems cruel the way the police constantly remind of her this although we recognize that it must be done as a part of their investigation. Section/chapter one brings the reader into the struggle with the chaotic thoughts, foggy moments, and episodes of clarity along with Jennifer. At times it is difficult to discern what are memories and what is reality as we read along, much as Jennifer has difficulty detecting what is real and what is not. She is at any given moment an eighteen year old, then fifty and perhaps thirty-five, sometimes in the span of minutes. Throughout this chaos, we watch as police investigate the murder of Amanda and the post-mortem mutilation of her body -- the surgical removal of all of the fingers on one hand. For obvious reasons, the police suspect Jennifer and are initially reluctant to accept that she is suffering from dementia. They presume this is just a little too suspect and awfully convenient. During this period, Jennifer is still living at home with the assistance of Magdelena. However, her children become increasingly aware that this may no longer be a possibility as she has episodes of seemingly bizarre behavior, such as when she decides to taste the fruit in the grocery store and then removes her clothing. It isn't possible for one person to watch her constantly during the day so we suffer as the children make arrangements for Jennifer to be placed in an assisted-living facility. The house is sold and Jennifer is moved.In section/chapter two we witness Jennifer take more steps away from reality. She is in an assisted-living facility but doesn't know why. She constantly thinks of ways to escape and has more difficulty recognizing faces. She tries to retain a sense of dignity in her insistence that her "care-givers" call her Dr. White as opposed to Jennifer. We also witness, through recollected memories and current episodes, her ongoing struggles with her children. She struggles with dealing with Marks financial insolvency issues, which seems to recall her husband's embezzlement issues. Jennifer also struggles with dealing with Fiona's behavior as she recalls Amanda's interference in her oblique references that inform James that Fiona is not his child at Jennifer's 50th birthday party. The more that is revealed about Amanda, the less we like her. She comes across as manipulative and vindictive if not downright envious of what Jennifer has with
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd heard great reviews of this novel, and was excited to read it even though I don't normally read mysteries. Part I lived up to the reviews - it was an extraordinary portrayal of what it's like to be inside the mind of someone with Alzheimer's, captured experientially, not descriptively. Short sentences, as Dr. Jennifer White's mind went in and out, sometimes fully there, other times not at all. The story gradually emerged: her best friend was found murdered, her fingers amputated. Dr. White was a hand surgeon, forced to retire as the Alzheimer's crept up on her. LaPlante's literary device, a notebook with contributions from Jennifer's caregiver, her two grown children, and even her friend Amanda before her death, was brilliant.Part I: gripping, brilliant. I couldn't put it down.Part II: suspension of disbelief starts to crumble as stuff happens that, legally, just wouldn't happen in the real world of laws governing evidence and police behavior, etc.Part III: it fell apart for me. Medical stuff happens that would never happen, and the whole premise of the book, i.e. who did it, just didn't work for me. No way.Very hard to rate overall - I'd give I a 5, II a 3.5, and III a 2 - but I'll weight it in favor of Part I because it was so very well done.
britbrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant retired hand surgeon Dr. Jennifer White is the prime suspect in the murder of her best friend, Amanda. Amanda died of a head wound, but on one of her hands, all digits except for the thumb had been skillfully removed. The police question her, but to no avail. Dr. White is suffering from dementia and keeps confusing the past with the present, the real with the imaginary. She keeps a notebook with entries from her caregiver, her children, and herself, in order to try to understand what is going on around her. Memories of Amanda and her late husband, James, haunt her and intrude on her waking life. On her worst days she becomes aggressive and tests the patience of those around her to the limit. Did she kill Amanda? Did she remove Amanda's fingers? It seems as if even Jennifer isn't sure.Although this is Alice LaPlante's first novel, she's obviously not a newcomer to writing. This is quite possibly the most elegant book I've ever read. Written in four parts, each marks Jennifer's decline into more severe dementia. Parts one and two are written in the first person, in the choppy style that one imagines a dementia patient might think. There is no real sense of time. Amanda jumps from current time to a memory to a story back into current time seamlessly. Her confusion is obvious, and tragic. Part three is written in the second person. It gives the effect of Jennifer's coherency starting to leave her. Part four is written in the third person. The person who Jennifer was is all but gone. It's very sad, but also fascinating. Throughout, Jennifer is an unreliable narrator. We can never be sure of the truth.Some of Ms. LaPlante's language is truly beautiful. "We save some of them, but most are limp cold bodies to be flushed down the toilet. His rapture is not dimmed, he stares fascinated as the last of the red gold tails gets sucked out of sight. Even when his sister discovers her loss he is unrepentant. No. More than that. Proud. Perpetrator of a dozen tiny slaughters on an otherwise quiet Tuesday afternoon." Even when the story slowed down (which did not happen often), the language kept me fully engulfed. Only once did I get shaken out of the story, and that was in the scene in which Amanda asks for Jennifer's religious idol. It reeked of foreshadowing and reminded me that this is supposed to be literary fiction and not a guilty pleasure.The characters were written brilliantly. No archetypes here, with the possible exception of the nurses in the last two parts of the book. Every character is deeply flawed, and every character has redeeming qualities. No one was what they first appeared to be. Yes, this is a mystery, and yes, we do find out what happened to Amanda, but the mystery is only a vehicle for moving Jennifer's story forward. This is truly the story of Jennifer's mental decline, and how her family and friends deal with it. When you put down the book (which I only did once while reading it), you realize that dementia could happen to someone you love, or even you. Therein lies the true horror.Is this one of my favorite books of all time? No. Honestly, I generally prefer science fiction and horror. But it was a joy to read and if Alice LePlante writes another novel, I'll be placing it on hold at the library even before it's released.
CatheOlson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jennifer White has been forced to retire from her career as an orthopedic surgeon because of Alzheimer's Disease. The book is told from her point of view and the reader goes along on her journey of deterioration. Sometimes she is in the present, other times in the past. Sometimes she recognizes her family and friends, sometimes she doesn't. But to make things even more complicated and confusing, her best friend has been murdered and neither the police nor the reader nor Jennifer can tell if she had anything to do with it. Very well done book--couldn't put it down.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One can quickly run out of adjectives describing this novel but I will use chilling and heartbreaking. The reader follows Dr. Jennifer White, age 64, former orthopedic surgeon, as she sinks in the grip of dementia. This story is brilliantly related as she lapses in and out of reality, remembers farther and farther back, secrets of the past are revealed as the filters in her mind disinigrate and her mood changes become more pronounced. She is also being investigated for the murder of her best friend by a woman police detective who refuses to give up, believing that if she talks to Jennifer on the right day the truth will be revealed.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant! A murder mystery interwoven with a look deep into the mind of an Alzheimer's patient.  I've read several other books about demetia this year, so I think I was expecting more same old same old, but Alice LePlante has definitely written something fresh and provocative.  As a mystery, it's first rate and as a treatise on mental illness it's not far behind.As Dr. Jennifer White, a renowned orthopedic hand surgeon drifts in and out of periods of coherent thought, we take a journey with her through well-remembered long -term memories of childhood, early adulthood and raising her children, her early career, her marriage, and then through the terrifying lapses of short-term memory - of not knowing who these familiar looking faces are, of waiting for visitors who will never come, of escapes from her care-giver, and ultimately of her confinement to a more secure facility.  We see the patient from within her warped and failing brain synapses, and from the view of her daughter, her son, her mentor, and the detective investigating the murder of Jennifer's life-long friend, found dead with four fingers of her hand surgically removed.  Did Jennifer kill her? If she did, could or should she be tried given her current mental state?  Can she remember?  If she didn't, who else would have had the surgical skills to amputate fingers that cleanly?It is a fascinating study, a thrilling murder mystery with a stunning surprise ending, and a work that definitely makes the reader anxious to see what will follow this fantastic debut.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This debut novel is getting A LOT of attention, and rightfully so. It's a very literary and complex character study with a mystery/thriller element to it as well.It focuses on Dr. Jennifer White, a hand surgeon in her mid sixties who is suffering from advanced dementia. She is suspected of killing her neighbor and best friend Amanda. And certainly she is the ultimate unreliable narrator since Jennifer has no idea of whether she's done it or not--some days she forgets her children, or shifts around in time and general awareness of what is happening around her (at times recognizing no one), let alone what she herself is doing at any moment. Her reality can switch nearly instantly, mid- conversation. She does become violent at times. And she certainly has the skill to do what was done to Amanda.This book is a delightful puzzle to read as we are presented with Jennifer's ever shifting states of mind and memory. We learn a great deal about her children, her marriage, her friendship with Amanda, and what the general perception she had created of herself before her illness. But we learn these things in disjointed pieces that we must move around constantly as more bits are added, trying to figure out just what it is we are looking at. It will keep you puzzling all the way to the very last pages.This book is being lauded for its remarkable handling of what it's like to live with dementia, as well as its deft storytelling and masterful building of suspense. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you read this book.
caitemaire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As the book opens, we meet Dr. Jennifer White, once a brilliant and very successful orthopedic surgeon, now suffering from progressive dementia due to Alzheimer. And we find out that her long time friend and neighbor, Amanda, has been killed, four fingers on her hand surgically remove, a fact that makes Jennifer the number one suspect.Of course, she really has no idea whether she did it or not. As the story slowly unwinds, piece by piece, all told in Jennifer's own voice, we learn that the story may be more complex than we first thought. Yes, she and Amanda were friends for decades, but in many ways, they were also formidable adversaries. As we share her memories, tiny piece by tiny piece, we see that this friendship was often very complicated and not without a dark side.We meet Jennifer's two adult children, Fiona, an economics professor and her son Mark, a lawyer like his deceased father, as they make arrangements to care for her mother as she starts to decline. They visit often, hire a full time caregiver, take over her medical and financial decisions, all to protect her. Or are their motives not quite as pure as we might hope. We start to have some suspicions, as we share some of Jennifer's memories, some recent, many from decades earlier. But are they real or a result of her growing paranoia and confusion?  In part, this book is a straight out mystery, in part, it is a family saga and in part, a medical drama, and all are very well done.The story is written in a linear way, starting just after the murder and following Jennifer as her disease progresses. It starts when Jennifer is still in a stage of her disease when she has good days and bad days. On good days, she knows who she is, knows she was a doctor, recognizes friends and family who visit. On good days she remembers that her friend is dead and even recognized that the police who are talking to her consider her a suspect. On bad days, she is surprised by the woman she sees in the mirror and lives increasing in a world that is a blend of fantasy and decade old memories. Surprisingly for her, and for us the readers, it is the good days that are the hardest, as we both share the heartbreaking understanding of what is happening to her.Yet this is also a very non-linear book. Slowly we start to figure out the story, as, throughout the book, we share Jennifer's very disconnected memories. A hint here, a clue there, a conversation from years ago, all coming together. It is like a giant jig-saw puzzle, and piece by piece the picture starts to form, not complete until the very last pages. In lesser hands this could have been a confusing mess, but LaPlante displays a great deal of talent for holding it together in this, her debut novel. The resulting book is attention holding from start to finish, at times very dark, at times a bit funny, but always interesting and always with a tragic undercurrent, because this book is not going to have a happy ending.Except for the happiness that can be found in acceptance..and the peace that forgetting brings.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr. Jennifer White is slowly losing her mind after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer¿s disease. Jennifer, once a prominent and skilled orthopedic surgeon, has not only lost her ability to practice medicine, but her independence, mobility and cognitive skills. Now she regresses day by day to the point of an aggressive and almost childlike senility. Jennifer has good days and bad days, but recently she¿s had to have a home health aide move into her home to assist her, a fact that embarrasses and angers her. Her grown children, Fiona and Mark, visit frequently, but it¿s debatable whether they¿re helping their mother or hindering her. When Jennifer¿s best friend and neighbor of many, many years, Amanda, is found murdered with four fingers from one hand surgically removed, the police investigators come right to Jennifer as the prime suspect. The problem is that Jennifer has deteriorated so badly that she can¿t remember if she committed the crime or not. But this isn¿t a cut-and-dried case, for Amanda was good at alienating and threatening everyone around her, and through the increasingly muddy reflections of Jennifer's ailing mind, a picture begins to emerge of two women who are ideally suited for each other yet repugnantly averse to each other as well. As Jennifer¿s cognitive abilities begin to dwindle more and more rapidly every day, she¿s left in the position of having to be moved into a full time care facility while her children watch her mind slowly slide away. Will Jennifer ever remember if she played a role in Amanda¿s death or not, and what will become of her when she¿s no longer able to mentally function or recognize those around her? In this harrowing and suspenseful novel, the day to day life of one woman living through Alzheimer's disease is achingly portrayed in all its terrible impact, leaving her to cope with impotent fury at the inevitable future that¿s lurking just around the bend.Though this book was incredibly suspenseful, it was also very, very sad. Having to watch as one woman loses every faculty her mind possesses was not only enervating, but also at times torturous. The book is written in a unique style of small paragraphs that each house snippets of dialogue or action, and as such, the story moves quickly in small digestible bits of information and narration. As the reader works their way through the tale, more and more is revealed about Jennifer and the people surrounding her, and the effect of the parceling out of this information has a stunning impact on the realities of what type of life this woman is living and has lived in the past. Though her future is terrible to contemplate, her past was also filled with woe and discomfort, and it¿s Jennifer¿s ability to remain detached, both in the past and present, that allows for greater impact in the story of her life.Both of Dr. White¿s children are somewhat suspect. Her son, Mark, seems always to be looking for a handout and will sometimes manipulate his unwell mother in order to get what he wants. He seemed to be very untrustworthy and at times even cold and hostile to his ailing mother. Fiona was a little better, but there was something about her that evaded normalcy and made her a person who was not always trustworthy either. LaPlante succeeds in making the people who interact with Jennifer seem a bit debauched, and by doing this, the reader can start to feel like they¿re inhabiting Jennifer¿s mind and feeling the suspicion and paranoia that the protagonist is experiencing. As Jennifer deteriorates, she has moments and even hours of stiff lucidity that allow her to reflect on her life and the lives of her family. She never regrets the things she¿s done, but there is a certain wistfulness at the way things have turned out for her. At other times she¿s no better than screaming, biting harridan, incapable of behaving normally or remembering who her family are. In the typical fashion of Alzheimer¿s, Jennifer swings from bad to good several times a day, and t
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What I love best about fiction is its ability to help me escape the confines of my mind and experience reality through the eyes of wholly different and unique human beings¿the more bizarre and unique the characters, the better. When I heard that a multi-starred (i.e., Kirkus, Publisher¿s Weekly, Booklist) literary debut novel was available that told a murder mystery from the point of view of a female orthopedic surgeon with Alzheimer¿s¿well, I just jumped at the chance to read and review it! When the book came, I put other reading aside and settled down for what I hoped would be an extraordinary journey. I was not disappointed. The book was totally engrossing¿brilliant from beginning to end. Alice LaPlante¿s Turn of Mind is a masterful and thought-provoking character study. It swept me away on an intriguing psychological and medical mystery journey. What made the trip unexpectedly compelling was how the author effectively managed to weave bits of the thriller and horror genre in with the literary character study. It was very artfully done with little literary artifice that might distract readers and make them aware of the pulley-and-lever mechanics of storytelling stagecraft.This book takes you inside the mind of a brilliant doctor whose brain is slowly deteriorating from Alzheimer¿s. To the doctor¿s ultimate horror, she is being accused of the murder of her best friend. Because she cannot remember, every time she is told about it, she relives once again the excruciating pain of knowing for the first time that her best friend is dead. She has no recollection of the murder, but occasionally there are glimmers of disturbing and confusing visions¿The author appears to have done her research well. In my estimation, she demonstrates an outstanding understanding of the Alzheimer¿s experience. I say this being a daughter of a mother with severe dementia, who spends a great deal of time visiting my mother and her fellow residents in an assisted care facility.I heartily recommend this book to lovers of literary character studies and to any reader who wants to experience what it is like to have Alzheimer¿s. I do not think this book will appeal to murder mystery buffs. Neither do I think this book will appeal to readers who feel a strong need to like their main characters¿even before the onset of Alzheimer¿s this doctor was not a very likable or warm individual. This is an intelligent novel that demands close reading. It is not an easy book to read, nor is the experience always pleasant. Personally, I found the book very thought-provoking and ultimately exceptionally rewarding.
4cebwu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A murder mystery told from the point of view of the suspect who is suffering from Alzheimer's, so you have an unreliable often confused narrator which in leads to a confused story but it works. I was troubled by the actions of some of the other characters in this story, particularly the police. As a former officer of the court I find the interrogation and collection of evidence from a mental patient without the benefit of counsel troubling. I don't believe the end ever justifies the means. The narrator was violated in so many ways made me question how we treat people. The fact that the narrator has Alzheimer's makes the story compelling, this disease takes everything from a person, so does that then absolve everyone of any responsibility to that person?
Lo5588 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Turn of Mind" is unlike any book I've ever read before. A murder mystery narrated by a woman in the grip of Alzheimer's, it is by turns frustrating and heartbreaking (much like the disease itself). Dr. Jennifer White was a preeminent orthopedic surgeon but now she is only aware of reality on her good days. On bad days she can't even remember who she is. In the midst of all this, her best friend of decades is murdered and four of her fingers excised. Jennifer is the main subject, but is she guilty? Even she isn't sure. I forsee this novel - which I devoured in an evening - taking the book clubs by storm.
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The sweetest thing about this novel is the thought that a person might recall flashes of long forgotten, but beloved family memories with such clarity. Truly a gift in an otherwise heartbreaking decline.How the mind recalls, yet decays, is explored by LaPlante. The murder of Amanda is trivial compared to the story of Jennifer White. Her life unfolds in an unconventional manner of dementia moments. We start with the aftermath of the Amanda's murder, and then the narraration timeline is scewed. But it works terrifically. I did not find the tone or subject matter overly sad or depressing. But, as a person whose parents died over a decade ago, I think on some level I would welcome these flashes of lost childhood memory.
Carolee888 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loved this book. If you look at the cover, the head is obscured by what seems to be a fog and the fog is pearl like in tones. That is the perfect cover for this book. Dr. Jennifer White, an orthopedic surgeon is experiencing early dementia. She ¿retired¿ early from her work and hired a caretaker, Magdalena to live with her and take care of her daily needs. Her husband, James, has already passed away and left her with her two adult children, Mark, age 29 and Fiona, age 24. The pearl like drape envelopes her head on the cover of the book just like dementia covers her memories of people¿s faces, names, past events and only allows few sparkles to come through like the medical terms that she learned so well. This is so scary and she feels useless in getting back what she lost. Jennifer keeps a journal to try to help her remember things that she forgets. The book starts off with pages from her journal and with spaces behind the entries like her mind¿s search for memories that are no longer there. Through her journal we learn about her past with her parents, her husband and different relationships with her son and daughter. Her 75 old girl friend, Amanda has been found murdered. Her friend lived fairly close to her and some clues appear later in the book that disturb. Jennifer can¿t remember that it has happened so she is reminded over and over again by different people. Jennifer¿s relationship with Amanda is more like a sister to sister relationship with constant arguing included than a close friendship. It is a relationship that can sooth and destroy at the same time. Jennifer¿s husband, Amanda¿s husband and the children are all tied up in this mystery of who killed Amanda. But this book is not only a mystery; it is a telling of the destruction of the brain through the time with dementia. When I first read about this story, I thought it would be extremely difficult to write but Alice LaPlante has succeeded extremely well. I could barely stop reading this book, being so engrossed by her imitation of growth of dementia and later the mystery. She presents well developed characters and puts in twists that I had no way of expecting. This story shimmers and is luminescent with all the fractured perceptions of dementia. It is a pearl of a book. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested dementia, Alzheimer¿s and mysteries. I received this book from GoodReads but that in no way influenced my review.
travelwlee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very difficult to rate and review this book. It certainly held my interest, but none of the characters are likable. The thing that sets this book aside is being written from the point of view of a doctor who is suffering from early onset dementia. As the narrator moves away from being aware of her illness until her final fall into complete unawareness - this book is a very depressing read. A very though provoking book, but not sure one I would recommend to many.
bookchickdi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure that I would like Alice LaPlante's debut novel, Turn of Mind. The main character, Jennifer, is a middle-aged surgeon suffering from early onset Alzheimer's. When her neighbor and long-time best friend Amanda is brutally murdered, Jennifer is the main suspect.I was concerned that the story would exploit the diagnosis of Alzheimer's as a convenient plot device for a standard murder mystery. It is very sad to see Alzheiemr's rob someone of herself, and I didn't know whether the author would be respectful of that or not. The situations that Jennifer runs into will be familiar to anyone who has a family member suffering from this debilitating disease.The novel is told from the first-person point of view, like Lisa Genova's brilliant novel about a female researcher suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, Still Alice. That novel was one of my favorites in recent years, and while this book did not move me as much, the added angle of the murder mystery is expertly woven within the storyline of a character who may have committed a horrible crime, but doesn't remember.Jennifer is not a warm woman; she spent most of her life building a career. She had two grown children: Mark, a son who has persistent money problems, and Fiona, a daughter who has spent the last twenty years looking for herself. Her husband James is dead.Jennifer and Amanda had a complicated relationship. As the story unravels, we see that Amanda had a cruel streak, and Jennifer remembers things that Amanda did to purposefully hurt her. Is is possible that she really did kill Amanda and expertly sever her finger?In order to keep things straight, Jennifer has been writing in a journal things that happen each day. When friends and family come to visit, they write in the book as well. When she gets confused, she can read the journal to see what she has forgotten. Jennifer's caretaker also urges her to write about the herself, to tell her own story.A female detective has doubts that Jennifer is the murderer, but she is a good detective and will follow the case where the evidence leads. She is respectful of Jennifer and her illness, but dogged in her pursuit of justice. I liked her character.Turn of Mind turns the murder mystery genre on its head. The story is told by a narrator made unreliable by Alzheimer's, a woman who can remember things from her past, but not whether she killed her best friend. If she didn't do it, who did? The conclusion to the mystery may be predictable, but not very satisfying.This is a well-written novel, one that slowly weaves its story, and the fact that we only see the characters from Jennifer's point of view, adds to the mystery.