Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante is a haunting and tragic tale of murder and one women’s mental descension due to Alzheimers. Most of the story is written in the first person and we are allowed to witness, if not participate, in the often chaotic thoughts and actions of Jennifer White MD. Jennifer is in her early 60s, a retired orthopedic surgeon (specialty is hand surgery), widow, mother of two children, and a collector of religious art. Her son, Mark McLennan, is an attorney as was his father James. Her daughter, Fiona, is an economist and exhibits signs of manic episodes. Her son has been given medical power of attorney over her care and her daughter is given financial power of attorney. Other characters that are woven into the story include Magdelena, Jennifer’s full-time, live-in caregiver, and Amanda O’Toole a former teacher, Fiona’s godmother, reputedly Jennifer’s best friend, and the murder victim.
Jennifer’s story is divided into four sections and in each we see her decline to point that she suffers a “death of the mind.” Section one is immediately after the murder and Jennifer has more moments of lucidity but also has moments of aggression and confusion interspersed with memories of the past. One moment she realizes that her husband James is deceased and the next she is waiting for him to arrive home from work. One moment she is thinking about why Amanda hasn’t come over for coffee or to talk and the next she is reminded of her death and grieves. It is often just as difficult on the reader to see her grieve for Amanda repeatedly as she is reminded that her friend is gone. It seems cruel the way the police constantly remind of her this although we recognize that it must be done as a part of their investigation.
Section/chapter one brings the reader into the struggle with the chaotic thoughts, foggy moments, and episodes of clarity along with Jennifer. At times it is difficult to discern what are memories and what is reality as we read along, much as Jennifer has difficulty detecting what is real and what is not. She is at any given moment an eighteen year old, then fifty and perhaps thirty-five, sometimes in the span of minutes. Throughout this chaos, we watch as police investigate the murder of Amanda and the post-mortem mutilation of her body — the surgical removal of all of the fingers on one hand. For obvious reasons, the police suspect Jennifer and are initially reluctant to accept that she is suffering from dementia. They presume this is just a little too suspect and awfully convenient. During this period, Jennifer is still living at home with the assistance of Magdelena. However, her children become increasingly aware that this may no longer be a possibility as she has episodes of seemingly bizarre behavior, such as when she decides to taste the fruit in the grocery store and then removes her clothing. It isn’t possible for one person to watch her constantly during the day so we suffer as the children make arrangements for Jennifer to be placed in an assisted-living facility. The house is sold and Jennifer is moved.
In section/chapter two we witness Jennifer take more steps away from reality. She is in an assisted-living facility but doesn’t know why. She constantly thinks of ways to escape and has more difficulty recognizing faces. She tries to retain a sense of dignity in her insistence that her “care-givers” call her Dr. White as opposed to Jennifer. We also witness, through recollected memories and current episodes, her ongoing struggles with her children. She struggles with dealing with Marks financial insolvency issues, which seems to recall her husband’s embezzlement issues. Jennifer also struggles with dealing with Fiona’s behavior as she recalls Amanda’s interference in her oblique references that inform James that Fiona is not his child at Jennifer’s 50th birthday party. The more that is revealed about Amanda, the less we like her. She comes across as manipulative and vindictive if not downright envious of what Jennifer has with her children and the relationship she has with her husband James.
Each chapter/section becomes shorter and shorter as Jennifer’s grasp on reality becomes smaller and smaller. More is revealed about Amanda’s murder and the events surrounding the murder. We witness reconciliations and a sense of acceptance. We begin to grieve, not with Jennifer but with her children as they suffer through their mother’s decline. Ms. LaPlante does a superb job of grabbing our attention and shaking us up as we participate in the ups and downs in Jennifer’s life. This is an excellent fictional depiction of the trauma of Alzheimers/dementia from the sufferer’s perspective as well as the family. I highly recommend adding this book to your to-be-read list upon its release in July. A definite must-read!
Thank you again to the publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press and netGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
I wish I could say that I liked this book, but I can’t, for a variety of different reasons. I will not be posting the early review on my blog, but if you want to see what I thought please check out the links below to GoodReads.com or LibraryThing.com.
My next book is also courtesy of netGalley (and Grove/Atlantic Inc.): Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, published by Atlantic Monthly Press. I hope to have the review posted by late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Until then, happy reading…
I’m going through my TBR list of books from netGalley and next up is PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Kathi Macias, published by Hew Hope Publishers. Look for this book to hit stores on 4/5/2011.
Have you ever read a book and can’t quite decide if you liked it or not? Well, that’s where I am with Pale Demon by Kim Harrison. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ‘hate’ this book but I simply didn’t like it as much as the others. There’s plenty of action and familiar characters, but this was the first time I had to force myself to read a book in this series. Jenks, the pixie, is still grieving the death of his wife but is taking the first steps to moving on with his life. Ivy, the vampire, has come to grips with the notion that there will be only friendship between her and Rachel. Rachel, the witch, is coming to grips with the idea that she is or may be a demon (or at least descended from demons). Trent, Rachel’s frenemy, is openly embracing being an elf and sets off on an elf quest. Others join this strange quartet as they drive cross country to attend Rachel’s hearing before the Coven.
In previous books Rachel had been shunned as a black witch (a witch performing black or demon magic), and although she thinks that she can have the shunning removed she is also aware that she may never be openly accepted for what she is…witch and demon. She must battle a day-walking demon, definitely something new, while dealing with the stress of what awaits her at and after her trial. For a brief moment I thought that this might be the end of Rachel and her escapades, and I had to ask myself if I was ready to be through with Rachel and her troubled life. The answer is no. Although there are some series that play out after a few books (but the authors keep plugging away for a few more books just to keep the series going), Ms. Harrison and the Rachel Morgan series do not fall into that category. All things considered, this was a decent read and a nice twist to the series. I anxiously await reading about Rachel’s fate in future books.
I’ll be taking a brief break from my paranormal/fantasy reading so that I can read and review some soon-to-be-published books, courtesy of netGalley and Hyperion. The first in this list of advanced reading titles will be The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon, scheduled to be released on June 14, 2011.
I truly thought that I could spend Tuesday reading, but family, friends, neighbors and responsibility constantly interrupted me. I know the laundry must be done (especially if I want to wear clean clothes), dishes must be cleaned (isn’t this why we have paper plates?), the carpet must be vacuumed (okay I don’t have anything against this one because yuck – dirty carpet), and guests must be entertained. It would have been rude to ignore the necessity of household chores, the ringing doorbell, phone calls, emails and texts simply because I wanted to read, wouldn’t it? Perhaps I’ll be able to spend at least a few hours reading today, that is if I don’t have to deal with more of life’s little interruptions.
I’m back to the paranormal-fantasy genre reading and I’ve just started Pale Demon by Kim Harrison. I know it’s a radical change from Deadly Ties, but it was on the TBR short list.
Trying to categorize Deadly Ties is somewhat difficult. It is at times a light romance story but it also features heavy elements of thriller/suspense and inspirational fiction.
The beginning chapter of this story doesn’t make much sense and as a result throws the reader off — or at least this reader. During this first chapter Annie Harper is seen a weak woman and it is unclear if she knows what is going to happen to her husband and child or not. She is constantly asking that she be allowed to go back 24 hours to make things better and this is BEFORE her husband is killed and her daughter kidnapped. This begs the question that if she knew what was going to happen why didn’t she warn her husband? Another question this raises is why didn’t she go on the trip with her husband and daughter?
The premise to the story is that Lisa Harper, a newly licensed physician, witnessed her father’s murder at age 7 while on a road trip and was then kidnapped with the intent to be sold (as a child bride or slave is never made quite clear). She somehows escapes her kidnappers and is reunited with her mother, Annie Harper. Annie, who is written as a woman of extremely weak faith in the first chapter, has a heart attack subsequent to her husband’s death, possibly suffers a miscarriage (not made clear although there is reference to her losing a child: miscarriage or reference to Lisa…this reader doesn’t know), almost loses the family home and subsequently marries the first man to propose, Dutch Hauk, in her efforts to save the family and the house. Regrettably this man is not only domineering but verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive to not only his wife but his stepdaughter. This abuse continues until Lisa turns 16 at which point her mother signs over custody to family friends and Lisa moves out. The abuse against Annie doesn’t stop. Now she’s depicted as a woman of presumably strong faith and refuses to divorce her husband because this is seen as displeasing to God, even though her husband refuses to allow her to see or speak to her daughter and keeps her a virtual prisoner within her home.
Enter Mark Taylor, an special ops veteran and security expert hired by Lisa’s surrogate father. Mark facilitates communication between Lisa and Annie by providing them both with cellphones. He also works out a system where he can check daily on Annie to ensure that she has not been injured or worse. Now if you think that Lisa suffered trauma as a child, imagine Mark being emotionally tortured as a child because everyone in his family blames him due to his mother’s death after his birth. As a result, Mark has distanced himself from his birth family (I wonder why) and made his co-workers his family, specifically his ex special ops co-workers.
Now we have the bad guys, a nefarious criminal organization referred to as NINA (Nihilists in Anarchy), which includes Dutch Hauk, the husband from hell. Dutch knows that something is going on between his wife and stepdaughter so he hires NINA to rough up his wife and then kidnap Lisa (apparently for the second time as he was behind the initial child kidnapping incident). He actually states that he wants his wife kept alive if possible but if isn’t possible that’s acceptable. Long-story short, Lisa is kidnapped again, fights against her kidnappers, and strengthens her faith through prayer and acceptance as a result of her trials and adversity.
There are times when the action stretches credulity, but this reader is aware that fiction does not always mimic reality. If we truly wanted reality then we would read nonfiction. Even with the weaknesses in the story, it somehow works as a story meant to inspire. This may not be acceptable reading material for everyone, but I honestly feel that it works well as an inspirational novel and could be read and hopefully appreciated by anyone of faith, be they Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other.
The subtitle “A Twist on the Classic Tale” provides the reader with just enough information that you’ll now this is not the old tale. There are just enough similarities to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid to make this recognizable, but Ms. Turgeon provides the reader with just enough “twists” (including more of the romance angle) to provide the reader with renewed interest in this classic story…well, at least for this reader.
There are definite unique aspects to this story as we see more into the mindset of Lenia, the mermaid Princess. The reader is also introduced to her rival, Princess Margrethe, daughter of the Northern King. They are not rivals in the true sense of the word in that they do not hate one another, but they are both vying for the attention and love of Prince Christopher, son of the Southern King. Both princesses are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, and even their concept of personal sacrifice is different. Nonetheless they are both willing to do so for love and the greater good.
I rather liked the characterization of the Northern King being as cold, hostile and foreboding as his northern kingdom, whereas the Southern King is somewhat kinder, gentler and sunnier much like his southern kingdom. A great story that is well-written and captivating, perfect for a weekend or vacation read.
I know, I know…I have already gone on record as stating that the paranormal-fantasy genre isn’t one of my regulars, but I was so intrigued by A Discovery of Witches, that I’ve decided to continue reading a few other titles in this genre from my TBR list. I’m currently reading Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon. This will probably be followed by Pale Demon by Kim Harrison, The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman, Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze, and The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (scheduled for release on 03/22/2011). Of course I may get sidetracked and throw in a few other titles along the way, but these titles are at the top of my TBR list at the moment.