Review : Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Turn of Mind is a stunning and engrossing voyage into the deconstructing mind of a brilliant woman immersed in a rather enigmatic murder mystery. The meshing of these two storylines could create chaos for the reader as they try to follow both, but LaPlante does a deft job of weaving them together.
The complicated and steadily unraveling threads of Dr. Jennifer White’s life are revealed to the reader through her eyes, shaded by her disjointed memories and complimented by the entries in her “memory journal”.
When we first meet Jennifer she is in the still “functioning” throes of dementia. She is still living in her home, albeit with the assistance of a home aide, but the reader can tell she is sitting on the cusp of the next level of her declining awareness. This story is saved from being a depressing tale of mental decline by both the rich, multi-layered characterization of Jennifer and the realistic treatment of the family dynamics involved.
Dr. White is not always a sympathetic or tragic figure. We see, through her disjointed memories and the interactions with her children that she was not the warmest or most congenial person on her best days. Now, due to her declining mental state, those elements of her character are both magnified and then completely absent. It presents an odd dichotomy, as we see a very independent, self-assured, structured person slowly lapse into a dependent, confused and disorganized woman.
The murder mystery element is woven into the larger story of Jennifer’s decline with skill. Although at times it feels as if LaPlante has taken us down a dead-end road with this story thread, you eventually understand that this is an efficient device, helping the reader to identify- at least partially- with her main character. The fact that Jennifer becomes a prime suspect in the murder of her best friend feels at time both logical, yet overly convenient. The fact that the reader cannot, with any surety, predict the outcome of this element of the story adds a new dimension to an already interesting story.
The one element that makes Turn of Mind an engrossing tale is the main character, Dr. Jennifer White. The tragedy of her unpredictable mental state is compounded by the woman herself. A woman, who under normal circumstances would be an enigma, and quite an interesting person to know- if she ever allowed you to.
Turn of Mind will be released July 2011 by Grove Atlantic Press*Review based on advance readers copy