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Sandra H. (St. Cloud, Minnesota)
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Dr. Jennifer White, a 64-year-old orthopedic physician suffering from dementia is the prime suspect in the murder of her best friend, Amanda. Three of Amanda’s fingers have been surgically removed and Jennifer specialized in working with joints in the hands. Jennifer tries to make sense of what is happening but her dementia has progressed to the point that she cannot always identify faces , remember names or even care for her own basic daily functions. Jennifer’s companion keeps a notebook detailing daily activity, her children come to see her trying to find out what happened and the police keep taking her back for interrogation. Using short sentences and paragraphs, the author lets us experience Jennifer’s fragmented and disjointed thinking as she moves back and forth in her mind trying to remember her past and her friendship with the dead woman. This movement causes us to experience the painfully confusing life of a person losing her life to Alzheimers while giving the necessary clues (as well as some red herrings) to keep us wanting to learn what happened. Yet, this is so much more than a "who done it." At the end, I felt drained yet satisfied. This is a superbly written mystery.
Cindy A. (Bryan, Texas)
A Fascinating Look at Declining Memory
Turn of Mind is a unique murder mystery in which the prime suspect, a former surgeon, suffers from progressive dementia. She struggles to remember that her friend and neighbor, Amanda, is dead, but has no memory of the event. The reader learns about events as Jennifer recalls them, or when she hears others discussing them, or reads back entries in her memory journal. A lengthy middle section barely touches on the murder plot, although it is still fascinating as it provides an intimate view of Jennifer’s mental decline from her own perspective.
Rachel B. (Waynetown, IN)
Intriguing and unsettling picture of Altzheimers
The murder victim, who was Jennifer’s best friend, is an odd duck. She comes across as a woman who was difficult and full of jealousy; it is hard to see why Jennifer forged such a strong friendship with her, but that just adds to the mystery.
One of the best facets of Jennifer’s character is that, no matter what her mental state, she always demands the respect due to her. She reminds us that even those in the last stages of Alzheimer’s are human beings who should be treated with dignity. The ending is somewhat controversial, but I think few readers will object to it.
Turn of Mind works better as a psychological novel than as a murder mystery, since the majority of attention is given to Jennifer’s state of mind and her decline, but it is fascinating nonetheless.
The story was not spectacular, but I mean that in a good way. It was the story of a woman who had raised a family, pursued a successful career, and then (where we meet her) begins to lose herself and all the memories/feelings that she had cultivated. The murder isn't all that important in the end, except that for me it was a really dramatic picture of how dementia starts to eat away at your ability to be accountable for yourself. If you can't rely on your memory, where can you gain conviction or hold onto even a shred of confidence? A very compelling story, filled with people it felt like I knew. Like many other readers, I found the story reminded me very much of Still Alice. I would highly recommend this book to a book club.
Debra V. (Kenosha, WI)
Turn of Mind
Haunting story of a brilliant woman's descent into dementia. Turn of Mind is written in a way that takes you into Dr. Jennifer White's fragmented life and thoughts and allows you to feel the pain and confusion with her. The mystery of her best friend's death and her conflicted relationship with her children are filtered through her disease. The best novel I have read this year!
Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI)
The Fragility of Mind
Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind is a brilliant novel. The story unveils the complex story of Dr. Jennifer White, a victim of Alzheimer's, who may have committed a murder.
Cheryl W. (Cassville, MO)
Turn of MInd
The narrator is usually Dr. White, who relates situations as she views them--sometimes she is in the past (which seems like the present), and sometimes she is even practicing medicine, having slipped away from the institution where she has been committed. Other persons sometimes relay their thoughts.
LaPlante's skillful writing keeps the reader transfixed. This is a most remarkable book, and I have been recommending it to everyone.
The adjectives on the back cover of the book describe it well, "extraordinary, haunting, startling, poignant, compelling". I read it in one sitting and was sorry to see it end. It is thought provoking, disturbing, and very sad. Even so I would recommend it to just about anyone. It made me think of dementia in a new way.
Kristen H. (Lowell, MA)
Turn of the mind took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It combines the sadness of having the family member perspective of watching a loved one become a shell of themselves, the couple of perspectives, when they are lucid and when they are not, from the family member with Alzheimer's in many different situations, as well as a murder mystery all wrapped up into one. A Great read.
Bonnie B. (Fairbanks, AK)
A Mind Lost
'Turn of Mind' by LaPlante is a fascinating book. Dr. Jennifer White is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease and this book is told mainly from her perspective in the first person. She is deteriorating rapidly and is having trouble remembering anything recent or even recognizing her children. She was an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery before she retired. Complicating matters is the fact that her best friend has been found murdered with four digits of her hand cut off. Jennifer is the prime suspect. The book is very well written and gets the reader deeply into the mind of a person with dementia. The book was so interesting that I had trouble putting it down. I highly recommend it.