Turn of Mind (LaPlante) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
This is a portrait of an unstable mind, an expansive, expertly wrought imagining of memory's failures and potential.... Alzheimer's is bleak territory, and to saddle Jennifer with suspected murder seems cruel and unusual punishment. But in LaPlante's vivid prose, her waning mind proves a prism instead of a prison, her memory refracted to rich, sensual effect.... The twists and turns of mind this novel charts are haunting and original.
Zoe Slutzky - New York Times



To call Turn of Mind a thriller—or a chronicle of illness, or a saga of friendship for that matter—would confine it to a genre it transcends. This is a portrait of an unstable mind, an expansive, expertly wrought imagining of memory’s failures and potential.... In LaPlante’s vivid prose, [Dr. White’s] waning mind proves a prism instead of a prison, her memory refracted to rich, sensual effect. There are moments of steely, surgical calm, the language tight and fractured..and there are moments of blooming, antic poetry.... LaPlante has imagined a lunatic landscape well. The twists and turns of mind this novel charts are haunting and original.
New York Times Book Review


Gripping.... Skilfull.... Unique.... [A] compelling whodunit.... LaPlante has created an unforgettable portrait of the process of forgetting.
Washington Post Book World


Rare.... LaPlante's fine novel is both lyrical and shocking.
Boston Globe


Expertly paced.... A stunning act of imagination.
Chicago Tribune


A page-turner.... Creates a startling range and texture of fear. From agonizing, slow-motion-car-crash moments to the ironic frissons of a good horror movie, [LaPlante] hits every bell.... The complexity never fades.... The razor sharp quality of [Jennifer's] thoughts, even at their most fragmented, gives her entire ordeal a "Twilight Zone" feel. Up until the final stages of the disease, she still somehow manages to retain the quality of a lone sane person adrift in a world that definitely isn't.
Los Angeles Times


Remarkably poignant.... An artful, ambitious, and arresting attempt to capture the thoughts and feelings, by turns confused, conspiratorial, canny, and clear, of a person in the throes of mental illness.... LaPlante reminds us all, passionately, that no matter what the state of our health, reality can be elusive and subjective.
San Francisco Chronicle


How does LaPlante pull a story out of [a protagonist] with no memory? In a word: deftly.... A clever whodunit.... If this portrait is correct, Jennifer is a sad but true reflection of a disease that ebbs and flows unmercifully. One minute she stares in wonder at a commonplace item like a toothbrush, the next she reacts with almost animal cunning, and the next—almost miraculously—she displays the most salient facets of her former self. The novel’s ending alone will show what a long and winding road it is from confused to comatose.
Seattle Times


Unforgettable.... It sounds like an almost impossible task: to write a murder mystery from the perspective of a suspect with Alzheimer's. And yet LaPlante pulls it off and with flair.... Jennifer is a hard, funny, acerbic woman when she is able to marshal her wandering wits.... Fragmented and disorienting.... [A] distressingly believable portrait of a mind sinking into dementia.
Guardian (UK)


Haunting.... Blackly humorous.... Remarkable.... [Told in] the crisp, super-intelligent, and brutally confused voice of Dr. Jennifer White.... LaPlante is certain in her footing—the verisimilitude here is unnerving...[as] she takes us into a world of gauzy shadows and scattered puzzle pieces.
Newsday


This poignant debut immerses us in dementia’s complex choreography.... Dr. White is...by turns brilliant, hallucinatory, and heartbreakingly vulnerable.... [A] lyrical mosaic, an indelible portrait of a disappearing mind.
People


Impressive.... Part mystery novel, part family drama.... LaPlante has a gift for rhythm, crafting rat-a-tat passages that are their own pleasures.... It’s no small feat that LaPlante manages to spin a coherent tale despite her main character’s profound disorientation.
Entertainment Weekly


This book is to 2011 what Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One was to 2010—the dread-filled, un-putdownable page turner.... Skillfully written in the memory-loss first person, the book combines murder mystery with family drama, bringing new meaning to the term ‘psychological thriller.’
Vanity Fair


This dazzlingly adroit debut novel is full of suspense, rueful humor, and scalpel-sharp insights into the intricacies of love and friendship—as well as the resilience of the human spirit.
More


LaPlante's impressive first novel sensitively explores the mental disintegration of widowed 64-year-old Jennifer White, a once-lauded Chicago hand surgeon, who charts her own experiences with Alzheimer's both consciously, in notes she writes to herself and thoughts she shares, and unconsciously, as she records conversations and actions she witnesses but doesn't understand. When someone fatally bludgeons Jennifer's best friend, 75-year-old Amanda O'Toole, who lives just three doors away, suspicion falls on Jennifer because the killer surgically removed four fingers from Amanda's right hand. In a satisfying twist, Jennifer honestly doesn't know herself whether she committed the murder. Jennifer's 29-year-old lawyer son, Mark, wishes to have his mother declared mentally incompetent, while her 24-year-old daughter, Fiona, a sweet, loving flake, and her full-time caretaker, Magdalena, act out of less selfish motives. Mystery fans should be prepared for a subtle literary novel in which the unfolding of Jennifer's condition and of her past matters far more than the whodunit.
Publishers Weekly


Dr. Jennifer White, 64, is a widowed retired orthopedic surgeon with rapidly advancing dementia. As she narrates her story, she is alternately eloquent and profoundly disconnected from reality. She lives at home with her caregiver; her son and daughter are doing their best to cope with her mood swings, confusion, and wanderings, but they have their own challenges. When Jennifer's best friend and neighbor is found murdered with four of her fingers surgically removed, she is understandably the prime suspect. She has no memory of committing the crime. Her children do their best to insulate her from incarceration as her grip on reality continues to slip. Her fractured and sometimes brilliant narrative of police questioning reveals the intimate story of two strong women whose friendship was both compassionate and highly adversarial. Verdict: This extraordinarily crafted debut novel guides the reader through family drama that is becoming all too familiar. That the author is able to do it so convincingly through the eyes and voice of the central character is an amazing achievement. Heartbreaking and stunning, this is both compelling and painful to read. —Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
Library Journal


LaPlante's literary novel explores uncharted territory, imagining herself into a mind, one slipping, fading, spinning away from her protagonist, a woman who may have murdered her best friend.... A haunting story masterfully told.
Kirkus Reviews




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