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Book Chat: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Title: Turn of Mind [buy the book]
Author: Alice LaPlante
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: July 5, 2011


A stunning first novel, both literary and thriller, about a retired orthopedic surgeon with dementia, Turn of Mind has already received worldwide attention. With unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante brings us deep into a brilliant woman’s deteriorating mind, where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

As the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, who lived down the block, 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 to hide it?

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

My thoughts:

I went into this book thinking it was more mystery and less the study of a woman coping with Alzheimer’s, so was extremely frustrated with the slow pacing of events. The way the story unveiled at the end was surprising, and the author had me guessing the whole way through about who removed Amanda’s fingers and why.

I never did connect with the main character, Dr. Jennifer White. Whether that was intentional on the author’s part (a byproduct of the Alzheimer’s) or a disconnect that was unique to me as a reader, I don’t know.

Jennifer’s children, Fiona and Mark, had an interesting dynamic — their motives kept me guessing, as Jennifer narrates and her reliability about reality is questionable. However, I couldn’t help but get frustrated with Mark, who always needs one more hand out to make his life work.

Like I said, I expected more mystery than literary, which threw me for a loop. Would I have liked the book more if I’d gone into it with different expectations? I have no idea.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


10 Responses to “Book Chat: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante”

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy) ()

    It’s funny how expectations can affect how we like a book. Sorry this didn’t live up to yours.


  2. zibilee ()

    I really liked this one, and I think it was because I knew almost nothing about it when I opened it. I also agree that Alice was a hard character to get connected to, and her kids always made me a tad uneasy. I think that her daughter may have also had some mental issues, or at least it was alluded to in the story. I was surprised by the ending, and it was really very chilling to me. Sorry that this one was not as thrilling as you had been expecting.


  3. Kay

    I think it’s very tough when we go into a book expecting a certain thing and then it’s not as we expected. I had an experience like that recently – a kind of “huh??” moment. I’m interested in this one because of the Alzheimer’s perspective, but I’m glad to know that it might not be as much of a mystery as I’ve read in the blurbs.

    Nice to see you posting some again, Trish! Know that precious baby is keeping you busy, but you’ve been missed. 🙂


  4. Kailana ()

    This book sounds good, but I am not sure if it would be for me.

    Hope everything is going well with you new little one! 🙂


  5. Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog ()

    This one was presented to me as a character study in the frame of a mystery, so I went into it looking for the unique narration, and it SO delivered, but I can see how going into it expecting a mystery would make it a bit of a headscratcher. Wouldn’t it be great if we could help publishers write the jacket copy for things so readers get what they expect?


  6. Kathleen

    Sounds like one that would have frustrated me a bit too. I like the idea behind it but not sure I would have enjoyed how it all comes together.


  7. Nancy Taylor ()

    Tastefully written.

    I wondered about this one. I wonder no more.


  8. Jennifer ()

    I have to admit I am both incredibly intrigued and a bit put off by books that explore Alzheimer’s. My grandfather suffered from it so it is certainly something that I would like to no more about. However, I just get so emotional about the very idea of literally losing yourself. It is just such a difficult thing to cope with. I will keep an eye out for this one and might end up picking it up one day, but for now, I’m just going to be a bit weary about it. But I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book. At first, I thought it would be a bit more mystery than literary too!


  9. christa @ mental foodie

    I was disappointed with this one also – like you, I was expecting a mystery/murder, not a literary fiction. I haven’t had time to review yet, but expressed my frustration briefly here:


  10. Becky ()

    Hmmm… am trying to decide whether or not I want to check this one out… I am leaning more towards NOT at this point. I was hoping that it would have been better.

    On to the next book on my list, “The In-Ko-Pah Spirit” by Wally Runnels- a thriller with a story plot that centers around the Mexican drug cartel in the In-Ko-Pah Mountains, an isolated region on the Mexican/American Border. Thank you so much for your review. Glad I didn’t waste my time on this book.


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