Review: Turn of Mind

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante Over the past month, I have read three books with memory loss as a central theme – The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes (review), Before I Go To Sleep (review), and now, Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante.

Turn of Mind depicts the mind of 64-year-old Dr. Jennifer White, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery until she received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Dr. White’s close friend and neighbor, Amanda, is found murdered in her home and missing four of her fingers, which were removed with surgical precision. Dr. White is, of course, the prime suspect in the murder.

The novel is written from Dr. White’s point of view and chronicles her rapid memory deterioration over just a few months. We learn about her family and her life through her disjointed, fuzzy remembrances. As the book goes on, the narration becomes more and more incoherent. The beginning of the story is fairly easy to follow, but by the end, Dr. White’s mind is taking you all over the place, from fantasy to truth via brief moments of clarity.

Turn of Mind was a bit depressing, and I thought the ending was fairly predictable. LaPlante successfully portrays a mind suffering from Alzheimer’s. While you feel for Dr. White, through her confusion and her children’s reactions to her memory loss, you do not get the sense that she and her friends were especially likable people even in their prime. The primary characters are all flawed, and unfortunately, they are not flawed in an endearing manner.

Overall, I felt torn by my feelings toward the book. The Alzheimer’s depicted through the narrative brings to the forefront how terrible it must be to suffer this disease, either in yourself or a loved one. When I consider the fairly unlikable characters, I feel somewhat indifferent to the story as a whole. The murder and the why behind the murder are insignificant to the depiction of a mind suffering Alzheimer’s.

Many thanks to the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

Book: Turn of Mind | Author: Alice LaPlante | Published: Grove/Atlantic; July 5, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. WatsonBefore I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson definitely goes down as one of my favorite books this year. The story is incredibly suspenseful. It was so gripping that I read the majority of the book in one day. There is an intensity and uniqueness to the novel that will keep me praising this one for a while.

The book begins with Christine waking up one morning thinking that she is 20-something and not remembering how she ended up in bed with an older married man. She tumbles into the bathroom, only to find her hands appear older than she feels. When she looks in the mirror, she does not recognize herself. She is not 20-something but instead 47. Soon she finds photos of herself and the married man from the bedroom. There are notes on the photos identifying the man as her husband, Ben. Christine is soon advised by Ben that this scene happens every day. Christine has a rare form of amnesia that prevents her from remembering the last 20 years. She only retains memories for a 24-hour period. After a full night’s sleep, she wakes confused and thinks she is still a young woman.

Christine receives a phone call from a man identifying himself as her doctor, a psychoneurologist named Dr. Nash. Christine does not remember Dr. Nash, but he alerts her to a journal that she has been keeping. The story then switches to journal format, where Christine spends each day learning about her life anew, primarily by reading her journal. As time goes on, the journal allows her to form a more complete picture of the last 20 years. She is able to build on the things she learned and wrote down on previous days.

Before I Go To Sleep is the story of a woman who spends each day confused and scared, not knowing who she is or who she can trust. The reader becomes engrossed in the story, wondering themselves who is trustworthy – Ben? Dr. Nash? Who is telling her the truth about her past? S.J. Watson finds ways to keep the daily memory loss interesting and fresh, rather than repetitive and boring. The ending of the novel felt a bit rushed and trite, but it did not change my opinion of the novel as a whole. This is S.J. Watson’s debut novel, which is hard to believe. I will certainly be in line for whatever comes next.

I know I am gushing here, but if you are a fan of suspense novels, you absolutely must read Before I Go To Sleep.

Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.

Book: Before I Go To Sleep | Author: S.J. Watson | Published: HarperCollins; June 14, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 5 out of 5