Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Turn of Mind

A good mystery unfolds in bits and pieces, tantalizing the reader with ambiguous clues and tangential meanderings.  The devious author sets out to confuse the reader and to obfuscate the ultimate destination.

This is exactly what the devilish disease Alzheimer's does to its victims.  It makes a mockery of their mind, offering only disconnected and sporadic memories.  It can leave them standing on a familiar street unsure of the way home to their own house.  What a clever device to write a mystery in the voice of someone suffering from dementia, using her aide-memoire journals as the text of the novel.  This is exactly what Alice LaPlante has done in Turn of Mind.  Jennifer White was a skilled orthopedic surgeon before Alzheimer's forced her to retire. Now her best friend Amanda is dead, her fingers cut off with surgical  precision, and Jennifer is the prime suspect.  She herself can't recall if she murdered her friend or not.  The novel lurches forward in fits and starts, taking the reader along on the patchy path of White's brain.  White is lost in the present, but relevant memories sporadically surface to fill in the back story.  It was a fascinating read, although I found the abrupt ending a bit unsatisfying.  (That's the second time in as many books where I've complained about the ending!)

Alice LaPlante teaches creative writing at Stanford, and Turn of Mind is her impressive first novel.  I would  recommend it. 

1 comment:

Luxembourg said...

Beautifully written and heartbreaking, this is by no means for everyone. I loved every page of it. If you enjoy books like House of Leaves or The Shining, you should at least et the sample of this.