Book #84

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

When Dr. Jennifer White's best friend, Amanda, is found dead with four of her fingers surgically removed, Dr. White is the prime suspect. But she herself doesn't know whether she did it. Told in White's 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 other's most formidable adversary. As the investigation into the murder deepens and White's relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is White's shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her to hide it?

A retired surgeon with Alzheimer’s, accused of murdering her best friend. Her friend was found with four fingers amputated in a perfect fashion - no hacking, just cleanly sliced. The work of someone who knows what they’re doing.

The structure of this was wonderful. We hear from Jennifer in all of her different moments; those of remembering and lucidity, and those of confusion and fog. We hear from those around her as they explain who they are, as they reminisce, even as they write entries in her diary to remind her of conversations they’ve had. This format is wonderful for allowing us to understand how Jennifer’s illness is affecting her and those around her, and also in creating tension around the murder. As the story is given in fragments, it’s a very clear picture of how Jennifer’s thoughts mutate and shrink in her brain. 

It’s all just horribly bleak and sad. In one moment, you recognise your children, you understand where you are and what’s happening to you. In other moments, you wonder what time your late husband will be returning home, or you believe you’re eighteen and your parents are worrying about where you are. It must be a terrifying ordeal for everyone involved, and I really believe LaPlante has done well to depict both the overall and the nuance here.

Despite all this careful portrayal of Alzheimer’s, I found the mystery of the murder was something which felt secondary to the exploration of Jennifer’s decline. It isn’t built up well, we weren’t allowed to understand the varying characters involved, and the eventual reveal didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow with me. Inspecting the disease was the important thing here, the problem is probably with how the book has been marketed.

The true wonder of this novel  is being plunged into a world of mist, where memories used to thrive, and beginning to have a glimmer of understanding of what people experience when faced with this disease. There’s no real merit in the mystery aspect of the story, so your intent should be considered before reading.