Friday, April 08, 2011

TURN OF MIND by Alice LaPlante

I received an advance copy of this book.

Ten years ago, I was intrigued by a movie called "Memento" about a man with only short-term memory who was trying to reconstruct what happened to his murdered wife.  As he discovered "facts," he would tattoo them on his body so he would always have the truth at hand. As the movie progresses, you see how truly objective truth can be and how crippling memory loss really is.  Alice LaPlante covers similar territory in TURN OF MIND. 

Retired orthopedic (and hand specialist) surgeon Dr. Jennifer White is slowly slipping away as a result of dementia.  Her day to day life is chronicled in a notebook that her caretaker helps to maintain.  As the book opens, we discover that Jennifer's best friend and neighbor, Amanda, has been murdered and Jennifer is the prime suspect due to the fact that Amanda's hand had been mutilated after her death.  Unfortunately, Jennifer not only has no memory of what happened that fateful day, she doesn't even remember that Amanda is dead most of the time.   The book follows the disintegration of Amanda's mind while revealing the facts that seem to stick in her mind even as she loses everything else.  These moments of lucidity give the reader insight into the people around Amanda and a hint as to what really happened to Amanda. 

Part murder mystery and part psychological study of the effects of memory loss on a family, this is a truly compelling book.  I was completely drawn in by the story and couldn't put the book down. Having witness my own grandfather's deterioration due to Alzheimer's, I know how profound the effects of dementia can be not only on the individual but also on the loved ones and caretakers of the victims of this horrible disease.  I think LaPlante does an excellent job covering this ground while adding the interesting wrinkle of the murder investigation.  The reader gathers crumbs of information from Amanda's diminishing moments of lucidity and tries to piece together the truth of what happened.  It is a really original work that provides a twist on the traditional murder mystery.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. Really well done. This will have appeal for both mystery readers and family drama fans. A really excellent portrayal of dementia as well.

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