Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Compelling, sad, and eerie all describe Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind. It is safe to say no reader will remain untouched while reading it and may even find it disconcerting and difficult to forget. There is no doubt it is worth reading.
Dr. Jennifer White, a 64-year-old former doctor, suffering from dementia, tells her story in such a way that we are there with her amidst her confusion and angst. Dr. White, a renowned orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hands, has some good days as the story begins. These days decrease as she slips further and further into her disease. Her daughter, Fiona, is the rock she leans on while son Mark causes her mostly dismay when she can remember him at all. Her deceased husband seems to visit her quite often.
Complicating Jennifer’s retirement and slip into dementia is the death of her best friend of many years, Amanda, who has been murdered. When circumstantial evidence points toward Jennifer, the police become involved in her life. How can she remember killing someone whom she can’t always remember? If she did it, how does anyone expect her to remember why? As Mark, Fiona, and the police move in and out of Jennifer’s life, the only constancy is the damage the dementia is doing to her and her family.
By writing the novel mostly from Jennifer’s viewpoint, LaPlante has turned out a breathtaking work, one that even manages to throw us a surprise or two. One cannot read this without beginning to care for Jennifer and to be saddened by the knowledge of what dementia does to people. LaPlante’s version of a journey into darkness is a strangely rich and compelling one.
Even though I was saddened reading this novel, I have no trouble recommending it. It is entirely worthwhile and exceptional.