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155 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mesmerizing Exploration of a Deteriorating Mind
Dr. Jennifer White is sixty-four-years-old, suffering from Alzheimer's and a person of interest in the death of her best friend, Amanda. Her days are filled with a reality that blurs and fades and sometimes is intensely real. The police suspect Dr. White is involved in Amanda's murder. She's an orthopedic surgeon and four of Amanda's fingers have been removed with...
Published on April 29, 2011 by Nancy Famolari

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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Book for "Light Reading"
This book is depressing. Don't misunderstand - it's a fairly well written book, but the subject matter is dark. Very dark. This is a painful book dealing with a terrifying subject, and is not a light-hearted "who-dun-it".

In this book, a former surgeon is suspected of killing her on again-off again friend. However, since she is an Alzheimer's patient with no...
Published on July 4, 2011 by Rabid Reader


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155 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mesmerizing Exploration of a Deteriorating Mind, April 29, 2011
By 
Nancy Famolari (Pennsylvania, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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Dr. Jennifer White is sixty-four-years-old, suffering from Alzheimer's and a person of interest in the death of her best friend, Amanda. Her days are filled with a reality that blurs and fades and sometimes is intensely real. The police suspect Dr. White is involved in Amanda's murder. She's an orthopedic surgeon and four of Amanda's fingers have been removed with surgical precision. But is someone with advanced dementia capable of committing a skillful murder without being detected?

The story is told through Dr. White's eyes. It's eerie to be inside the head of someone whose reality changes from day to day. We meet her children, her caregiver, and through the visions she experiences, her husband, parents and Amanda herself. As the disease progresses, we are drawn more and more into the complex, disturbing world inhabited by Dr. White.

One police officer needs to find the truth. She continues to question Dr. White after all the others have given up, and gradually, she pieces together most of the truth. While it gives closure to the reader and the police officer. It's too late to help Dr. White. Her world is dissolving toward the end.

I enjoyed this book although it was an eerie sensation to be so much in the head of someone with a distorted vision reality. I thought the author did an excellent job describing the deteriorating world of an Alzheimer's patient.

Although the murder mystery kept me turning pages, the investigation by the police officers didn't ring true. Perhaps this was because it was being told through a distorted vision. Still, it was a necessary part of the novel. Without some real life clues to follow the novel would have become too convoluted in the bizarre world of Dr. White's deteriorating brain. Well worth the read.
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AN EXCEPTIONAL STORY OF A WOMAN UNDER ATTACK BY HER OWN MIND, May 11, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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"Something has happened." Jennifer White is writing in her journal, a record she's keeping ("It is my Bible of consciousness") because she is suffering from dementia, the intermediate stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Jennifer is 64. She has been a distinguished surgeon and she has two grown children, whom now she sometimes recognizes, sometimes doesn't, and with growing frequency confuses with her husband and mother, both long gone. "Termites [are] eating away at [her] emotions. . . . Robbing [her] of [the] chance to say goodbye." But now policemen want to question her. Her best friend, Amanda, has been found dead in her house down the block, and someone, someone with the surgical skill Jennifer used to possess, has amputated and disposed four fingers from Amanda's one hand. The detectives suspect that Jennifer either murdered her friend or was involved in the murder, but how can they penetrate the deep fog that now surrounds Jennifer's mind. And why would she have done such a horrific thing? Out of this situation, first time novelist LaPlante could have fashioned a potboiler, emphasizing the hyperbolic, but instead, and admirably, she has resisted the impulse to sensationalize and instead written a deeply moving account of an intelligent woman's descent into oblivion. It is also a mystery -and a good one--but most of all, it is a study of character under attack, and an excellent one.
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Book for "Light Reading", July 4, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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This book is depressing. Don't misunderstand - it's a fairly well written book, but the subject matter is dark. Very dark. This is a painful book dealing with a terrifying subject, and is not a light-hearted "who-dun-it".

In this book, a former surgeon is suspected of killing her on again-off again friend. However, since she is an Alzheimer's patient with no recollection of who her family and friends actually are, she can provide little help to the police as they search for clues. The book is narrated from the main character's (the Alzheimer's patient's) point of view, and therefore is disturbing in its stark portrayal of the confusion, pain and loss of dignity that surrounds the progression of this horribly debilitating disease. I found it heart-rending.

All of that said, while I respected the author's insight into the family disruption and emotional pain that accompanies dementia, I found the ending to be anti-climatic and not worthy of the skill she demonstrates throughout the rest of the book. Others may not agree.

I recommend the book, but do so with a caveat: read it as more than a murder mystery if you want your money's worth. The true power of this book lies not in the plot, but in the gripping portrayal of an illness that affects more than 27 million people world wide.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Mind of a Woman with Dementia, June 16, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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Dr. Jennifer White has early onset Alzheimer's disease at 64 years old. Once an esteemed orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the hands, she is now unable to remember things from minute to minute, unable to recognize her son Mark or her daughter Fiona most of the time. Her mind goes in and out from fog to lucidity but the lucidity, for the most part, are memories of her early life. In Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, the reader gets deeply into the mind of a woman with dementia. It is very realistic and fascinating. Having a mother with dementia and being a clinical social worker myself, I can say without reservation that Alice LaPlante really gets it.

The novel is primarily about Jennifer's life, before and after the onset of her dementia. We go backwards with her as she remembers her marriage, her family of origin, her childbirths and her education. Complicating matters is the fact that Amanda, her best friend, has been murdered and four digits of Amanda's hand have been removed. Jennifer has gone from being a `person of interest' to the police to becoming a primary suspect. The question remains, however, whether she did it and why would she do such a thing. The digits were removed in a professional manner, in the way an orthopedist might do such a thing.

We go back with Jennifer to her relationship with Amanda. Both are very strong women. Amanda is one tough cookie, honest to the point of disregarding feelings and willing to betray a friend's confidence if she does not agree with their ethics. At one point Jennifer calls Amanda both "the inflictor and healer of my pain. Both." Jennifer has narcissistic tendencies, sees herself as better than others, more deserving. "People who take this to an extreme are called sociopaths, Amanda tells me. You have certain tendencies. You should watch them."

Mark and Fiona are both portrayed as loving their mother but not being entirely honest in their interactions with her. Mark describes himself as "Tall, dark, handsome twenty-nine-year-old lawyer, with a bit of a substance abuse problem, looking for love and money in what are apparently all the wrong places". One of the places he goes to for money is Jennifer. Fiona, however, is Jennifer's financial executor and she and Mark are estranged. The family dynamics play out very interestingly.

As the novel starts, Jennifer is living at home with a caretaker. She calls her disease "a death sentence. The death of the mind. I've already given notice at the hospital, announced my retirement. I have started keeping a journal so I have some continuity in my life. But I won't be able to live on my own for very much longer." After she begins to degenerate drastically, Mark and Fiona put her in an assisted care facility where she is often restrained because of her drastic changes of mood and aggression. She has reached a point where she is not cognizant of her visitors' names, even people she's known all her life. When things get hardest for her, she takes herself to a zone in the past where she guides herself through imagery and memories.

The detective on the case frequently visits Jennifer, hoping to find her lucid enough to remember something, anything about Amanda's death. Her children want Jennifer to be left alone but the detective is tenacious. If Jennifer is convicted of this crime, even though she is incompetent mentally, she will have to be moved to a state facility. There is a lot at stake here.

Alice LaPlante writes like a pro. I'd never guess this is a debut novel. It reads fluidly and builds up cadence and tension. I hated to put it down and, thankfully, was able to finish it in two days. I look forward to LaPlante's books down the road. She has a great gift.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dementia masterfully rendered, June 22, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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This is one of those books where I feel that there is little I can say that will do true justice to the book. I believe it is a masterpiece in how fully it peels back the layers on dementia and gives readers a better understanding of the disease and its effects.

Stylistically, this book is a difficult read, but it pretty much had to be done this way so that the mystery could be unveiled, as well as the effects of dementia. None of the characters in the book are very likable. Dr. Jennifer White is not an easy woman and admits that "cold" is an apt description of herself. In the end, she is redeemed. Still, you can't help but feel sympathy for her and for her children. I'm not sure that the mystery was even necessary to the book. I think it would've been just as good without it. The character study was superb! Still, the mystery was well done.

Really, I believe this book is brilliantly done. No book is without flaws, and this one is no exception. Its flaws, however, pale in comparison to the skillful handling of this story. This is a powerful, engrossing, haunting, compelling book. There were parts that were completely riveting. I can't seem to get Jennifer out of my head. Anyone who has had dealings with people with dementia will completely relate to this book and learn more about it too. It is not a light read, nor is it genre fiction. It is that rare book that comes along rarely these days--true literary fiction of the highest merit.

Overall, I think this is a great book and one that requires more than one read. There are so many layers and clues and nuances along the way that is practically impossible to take it all in one read (I will probably reread it this winter). I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy true literary fiction and believe it would be a great choice for book clubs. It raises a lot of questions that would make for good discussions.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars " And it's not death that matters, but the look on your darling's face.", May 29, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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Turn of Mind is an impressive first novel by Alice LaPlante, one that is skillfully crafted to intrigue and evoke. Part drama, part mystery, Turn of Mind is a fractured narrative provided by the voice of its unreliable narrator, Dr. Jennifer White, a once brilliant mind now slowly deteriorating by the ravages of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

What I found most enthralling about this very smart novel is the perspective from inside dementia and the advancing stages of Alzheimer's. Jennifer's narrative swerves and loops through her diminishing memories, conjuring up characters and events that are sometimes immediate and wrenching, sometimes distant and contradictory, but always thorny and complex.

Weaving in and out of Jennifer's fractured narrative is the drama surrounding her two adult children, Mark and Fiona; the mysterious death of her best friend, Amanda; and the police procedural investigating Amanda`s possible murder. Although I think LaPlante's writing very clever, I actually found these aspects of the story less compelling than the portrayal of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

LaPlante's multi-level character development is solid and sturdy and makes claim to the complexity of human nature. But I did not find these characters likable, save for Jennifer's full-time caregiver, Magdalena, and a sympathetic woman detective working on the case of Amanda's mysterious death and the bizarre amputation of her fingers. Because I could not warm up to these characters, I could not care about their dramas navigating the sub-plots. Nor could I understand the friendship between Jennifer and Amanda. They are both strong and controlling women, appearing more like adversaries or opponents than companions or friends. Their story is rife with self-righteousness and manipulation, jealousy and betrayal, spite and aggression. Any moments of amiability and tenderness seem precious and rare.

However, Jennifer as first-person narrator is a very interesting, different kind of character. Like the others, she is not necessarily likable, but she is definitely engaging. She is a doctor, a very gifted, highly esteemed surgeon who is obsessed with her skills with the scalpel, with cutting, with amputating. But as a physician she hardly comes off as compassionate. She seems rather cold and hard, self-serving and narcissistic.

But as a physician, Jennifer can observe every clinical indication of her degenerative disease. She is completely aware that her brain, her mind, her identity are all decaying. She knows the stages of her disease, the details of its pathology, and every final, ticking moment of what is left of her consciousness.

Jennifer's anxiety and her fear of this inevitable dissolution is so vivid and tangible, it can be our own anxiety, our own fear of this terrible disease. We are given a meticulous, organic observation inside the demented, hallucinatory mind of an Alzheimer's patient. We are given a grim vision of that which can be expected when diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. In this, La Plante's prose is heartrending and it is frightening.

"The two people you love the most in the world. And it's not death that matters, but the look on your darling's face. The dark joy. Unbearable."

Despite a few minor missteps, Turn of Mind is a very worthy debut novel. Alice LaPlante has a wonderful gift for unique storytelling and I hope we will see more of her talent in novels yet to come.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never read anything like it....., May 6, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
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Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante OK< as you are reading this, remind yourself that it is a FIRST NOVEL..... How to begin a book like this? A book which gives a detailed look into a mind so very different from my own as to be completely foreign? The narrator - if you can call her that - of Turn of Mind is Jennifer White, a 64-year-old very-well-respected former hand surgeon who is rapidly succumbing to Alzheimers. Her days and moods are varied - some days lucid and clear, when she understands what is happening to her with a clinical detachment. Some days confused, frightened and downright paranoid. Some days angry and violent. From day to day her adult children and her live-in caregiver do not know what to expect from her. They keep a journal for her, in the the hope that it will help her remember.

But the decent into dementia is only part of the story. Jennifer's best friend, Amanda, who lives three houses down the street, has been murdered - and 4 fingers of her hand have been expertly amputated. Naturally the police suspect Jennifer, but have no evidence, and Jennifer cannot remember. Sometimes the police treat her as though her amnesia is a "convenient excuse" to cover up the crime. Most days Jennifer cannot even remember that her friend is dead, so she relives the horror of learning that fact (along with the death of her husband) over and over and over.

Did she kill Amanda? Or didn't she? Stunning, heart-breaking, strange and haunting. I could not put it down.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not to my taste but could be to yours, May 4, 2012
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This review is from: Turn of Mind (Paperback)
I'm not entirely sure why I disliked this book so much when the vast majority of reviewers loved it -- I love this genre of writing and love interesting narrative premises such as this one has. But I found TURN OF MIND way too tedious to be enjoyable. It is very repetitious in many respects, and while that's realistic given the narrator's situation, it doesn't make for the most engaging story at times, at least for me. I rarely stop reading a book midway through, but I did that here, skimmed a bit more and then skipped to the ending, which wasn't really a surprise. I don't like being such a naysayer but still, gotta be honest: this one didn't do much for me.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Mystery, March 17, 2012
By 
2LZ (Long Island, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Paperback)
In Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, Dr. Jennifer White is a talented orthopedic surgeon suffering from Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. Her disease has forced her to retire. Her best friend, Amanda, has been killed and whoever murdered her, surgically removed 4 of her fingers with precision. Thus, Dr. White is the person of interest in Amanda's murder. The problem is that Dr. White's mind is deteriorating so rapidly that it is difficult to get to the truth.

I liked that the story was written as journal entries. The reader does have to adjust to this writing style because the entries are written mostly by Dr. White (but by others as well) in different tenses and with varying degrees of clarity. The writing felt real to me and captured a struggling mind. The entries allowed you to gather just enough information to determine what was happening, but also caused you to question their validity. What was true or a skewered version due to Dr. White's disease or her hope to hide the truth?

However, for the most part this book was not for me. I wanted to feel for this main character. She was a brilliant woman, educated and hard-working who was becoming a shell of herself. I couldn't find a way to like her, even though I tried throughout the book. In fact, there weren't many characters that I did like, including the victim. I found her son, Mark, to be self-absorbed and self-involved. There were moments that I felt for her daughter, Fiona, but they were brief. The only characters that I felt any real connection with were Magdalena, the care-giver at the beginning of the story and the police detective. I would have liked to have known more about them. Part of the problem is that with a main character suffering from a memory disease, the reader is limited as well by her illness. Maybe the reader was supposed to be frustrated with the lack of information as the main character was frustrated by her own memory loss.

Additionally, there were events that took place in the story that I don't believe ever would have happened. For example, once an attorney was obtained for Dr. White I don't believe that there could legally be any police interaction with her without her attorney being present, especially with a person suffering from a mind illness. Dr. White was incapable of waiving her rights. The police could not rely on the truth of her statements, and any information obtained during those illegal interrogations could not be used against her.

This story had the potential to unfold into an exceptional mystery. It fell flat. In fact, there was no real intrigue.

I was expecting more. I found Lisa Genova's Still Alice to be a better story with a more emotional impact.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why care about any of these people?, September 10, 2011
This review is from: Turn of Mind (Hardcover)
I concur with others who give this 2 stars (even considered just 1 star). I found the writing "device" boring - bordering on distracting after I got the gist of the plot. But most importantly I couldn't care less about any of the characters. Everyone (except Magdalena, who isn't completely innocent, but at least seems contrite & concerned about others) is so cold, narcissistic & just overall unlikable - including the person who is murdered. I could never figure out why anyone would be her friend! Or why the 2 families became friends.

Even the descriptions of dementia - while very real - didn't capture my heart.

Finished this book just because I wanted to know "who did it" but would never recommend.
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Turn of Mind
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (Paperback - March 27, 2012)
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