Monday, March 18, 2013

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

I am catching up after our snowbird expedition to the south, so although these posts appear in 2013, I  read "Turn of Mind in December, then lent it to a friend who is caretaker for he spouse in the mid stages of dementia.  This Debut novel published in 2011 by Grove press is only 305 pages, much in dialogue form.  It was a NY Times Bestseller and received several best book of the year awards including the Kirkus Reviews and the Washington Post. 
It is a thriller and one I read in a couple spurts because it intrigued me and sustained a feeling of  what's going to happen  now, always good when reading  a mystery.  I just had to keep reading and yes the shocking revelation  is a surprise coupled with wondering "how could that be and yet, perhaps. The turmoil of dementia is portrayed with some lyrical writing in parts. 
 
 Quoting another review by Mark Athitakis in AARP Magazine where I learned of this book, "..What lingers in the reader's mind is not so much the resolution of the plot  as the resilience of Jennifer's character.   Alzheimer's patients reshape those around  them in ways that transcend anguish and frustration.  ...the best parts..reveal, the disease opens us to the very things that make us human."    And another review by Jose Bernard,  "...an incisive humane exploration of how we can rail against our need for close relationships with others, feeling that they  undermine our independence, even as we keep going back for more..." 

Back cover
This is the story of Jennifer, a former surgeon;  her care taker Magdalena; Fiona, her daughter and Mark,her son and the murder of Amanda, neighbor and Jennifer's best friend. The family dynamics are not that of endearing siblings but life like, a family  at odds, culmination of years at odds.  The tale begins with Jennifer flashing in and out of lucidity.  Ultimately Jennifer must be institutionalized something she protests while the family  realizes keeping her in her own home is not an option. What's with the children, which one is looking out for their mother and which one just wants  the money, the leavings?  As Jennifer's dementia increases which sibling will prevail? What can Amanda do to help?

Pg. 8 Jennifer's  thoughts..."The half state.  Life in the shadows.  As the neurofibrillary tangles proliferate, as the neuritic plaques harden, as synapses cease to fire and my mind rots out, I remain aware.  An unanesthetized patient."    Yikes, her brilliant mind grasps,  resents yet realizes what is happening to her as deterioration accelerates.

Pg. 9 More of Jennifer's thoughts on a meeting of the Alzheimer;'s support group at the Methodist church ....."A motley crew, perhaps half a dozen of us, our minds in varying states of undress."

Pg.  68  Amanda talks to Jennifer...."episodes of aggression are getting worse. I haven't seen one yet.  ....I know better than to think I've got some secret power, I've read enough about this disease to know you can't predict the future by the past."

Pg.95 Jennifer wanders and wonders..."The room is full of faces I recognize, and if I don't love them, at least I know their names, and that is more than enough.  Perhaps this is my revelation?  Perhaps this is heaven?  To wander among a multitude and have a name for each."
  .... 
pg 203   Detective Lutton, "People think it's just forgetting your keys, ..or the words for things.  But there are personality changes.  The mood swings.  The hostility and even violence.  Even from the gentlest person in the world.    You love the person you love.  And you are left with the shell."

 I cannot reveal  too  much  or it would spoil the mystery, but I recommend this as a good mystery read.  I rate it 4 stars ****,  clearly it is not for everyone.