Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlanteA stunning first novel, both literary and thriller, about a retired surgeon with dementia who clings to bits of reality through anger, frustration, shame and unspeakable loss.
Turn of Mind, a literary page-turner about a retired orthopedic surgeon suffering from dementia and accused of killing her best friend, was a New York Times hardcover bestseller and named a Best Book of the Year by Newsday, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Kirkus Reviews.
When Dr. Jennifer Whites best friend, Amanda, is found dead with four of her fingers surgically removed, Dr. White is the prime suspect. But she herself doesnt know whether she did it. Told in Whites 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 others most formidable adversary. As the investigation into the murder deepens and Whites relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is Whites 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.
An Alzheimer’s Mystery Novel
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A few months before "Turn of Mind" begins, year-old Jennifer White , an orthopedic surgeon, notices that she cannot remember where she put her house keys; how she got from her office to the frozen food section of the supermarket; the death of her husband; and the names of her two children, Mark and Fiona. In the middle of a procedure at the hospital, she forgets the word clamp, asks for "that shiny thing that pinches and holds," and sees the residents roll their eyes. Afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and forced to retire, Dr. White hires a caregiver, Magdalena, so that she can remain in her own house. She tries to obey the command - "Live in the moment" - posted on her kitchen wall. To maintain some continuity in her new life, she keeps a journal. On good days, she remembers that she forgets, and understands that changes in personality accompany changes in cognition: "Ask a dementia patient who she loves, and she draws a blank.
LaPlante manages to take hold of the aforementioned dread and modulate it, creating a startling range and texture of fear. From agonizing, slow-motion-car-crash moments to the ironic frissons of a good horror movie, she hits every bell.
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J ennifer White is devastated when she is told that her best friend Amanda has been murdered, four fingers from her right hand neatly removed. She is just as devastated when she is told the second time, the third time, the fourth time.
Thank you! Jennifer White lives in the dark, shadowy forest of forgetfulness. She is 64, a flinty intellectual, competent and career-focused, but she has been forced to retire from orthopedic surgery by the onset of dementia. Her husband is dead. Her children—precociously intelligent and possibly bipolar Fiona, a professor, and Mark, an attorney like his late father, but only an imitation of that charismatic and competent man—are left to engineer her care. The novel opens with White at home, cared for by Magdalena, a paid companion. Fiona has control of her mother's finances, a source of conflict with Mark, troubled by money problems and the hint of addiction.
Unreliable narrators come in many shapes. And then there is Dr. She is as unreliable as they come. Neither of these facts is fully clear to Jennifer, of course. Her illness has forced her to retire from a celebrated career as an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hands.