Turn of Mind This debut novel is something of a stunt, albeit a well-executed and technically ambitious one. The story is told from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer… Turn of Mind This debut novel is something of a stunt, albeit a well-executed and technically ambitious one. The story is told from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer… 2011-07-05 Fiction Atlantic Monthly Press
Book Review

Turn of Mind (2011)

Turn of Mind | 'MIND' GAMES LaPlante explores a murder mystery through the eyes of an Alzheimer's patient
'MIND' GAMES LaPlante explores a murder mystery through the eyes of an Alzheimer's patient
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Release Date: Jul 05, 2011; Writer: Alice LaPlante; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

This debut novel is something of a stunt, albeit a well-executed and technically ambitious one. The story is told from the 
 perspective of Dr. Jennifer White, once an intellectually commanding orthopedic surgeon, now — and here's the gimmick — a fast-deteriorating Alzheimer's patient. Where is she? What year is it? Who are these people? As she's narrating the story, White often has no 
idea what's going on, or she's buried in her past, carrying on dementia-muddled conversations with loved ones now departed.

Turn of Mind is part mystery novel, part family drama, and it's no small feat that LaPlante manages to spin a coherent tale despite her main character's profound 
disorientation. White's best friend, Amanda, has been murdered, her fingers sliced off with suspiciously surgical precision. Did White kill Amanda? The cops think so, but she's continually betrayed by her decaying brain: She just can't remember. Her two grown kids, meanwhile, are alternately protective and manipulative as they grapple with their mother's degeneration and
 some difficult family history.

LaPlante has a gift for rhythm, crafting rat-a-tat passages that are their own 
pleasures. ''I brush my icy hair out of my face and keep going, but he idles his truck alongside,'' White says at one point while wandering barefoot in the rain, lost. ''He takes out his phone. If he punches seven numbers, it's okay. If he punches three numbers, it's bad. I know that. I stop and wait. Onetwothree. He stops. He brings 
 the phone to his ear.''

Strip away the flashy writing and clever narrative concept, and Turn of Mind starts to feel a bit thin. The story's not suspenseful or surprising enough to work as a first-rate detective thriller, and the characters'
 pasts emerge only in flashes amid the 
madness, dimming the emotional impact. But if the result isn't always affecting, it's still pretty impressive. B+

Originally posted Jun 22, 2011 Published in issue #1161 Jul 01, 2011 Order article reprints