Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Turn of Mind - Alice LaPlante

This is exactly the kind of book I like best. It gives me insider information about something I previously knew nothing about. It is psychological, and there is crisis. There are minute examinations of familial relationships. And it’s even a mystery, complete with some good, old-fashioned twists at the end. When a novel with all of these qualities is also well-written (and by a woman, to boot! Another plus!), I find that it’s basically a formula for me to love it - which I did.  (An aside, about that: Can you identify specific crossover traits among the books you love most? Or is it all over the map, for you?)

Novels like this are, in a way, the most economical way to travel. Honestly, I think that reading fiction taught me any history, geography, and science that I know today. Almost regardless of subject matter, I love a book that teaches me things almost “on the sly,” simply because the narrative is so attention-grabbing. I’m always inspired by the craftsmanship involved with an undertaking of this kind, at the amount of research that must go into this kind of a novel in the beginning stages; and then later, at the author’s ability to think up an engrossing plot through which to impart the information. Authors like this are actually doing two jobs, it seems.

In the case of Turn of Mind, LaPlante provides a close-up view into the life of an Alzheimer’s patient. Dr. Jennifer White tells her story while simultaneously slipping farther into the clutches of the disease. Though that sounds really depressing (and on the one hand, it is a depressing read – which almost never deters me, incidentally, much to my husband’s chagrin regarding our Netflix queue*), this book is a journey inside a disintegrating mind. To depict Jennifer’s ongoing intellectual collapse, the writing style changes gradually as the story progresses. The process of reading thus shifts accordingly: by the end, I had to pay much sharper attention to the narrative so that I could piece together the clues to the mystery. Along these same lines, though there is a lot of dialogue in the book, LaPlante uses no quotation marks. This technique provides a sense of remove, for the reader, which is exactly how the protagonist feels – distanced from her own life. All in all, it was a terrifically smart and effective way to impart tone.

In closing, I think you should read this one. Put it on your list!

*In the last two weeks I’ve made him watch City of Life and Death, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, and Rabbit Hole. I rest my case.

1 comment:

  1. Putting on my Kindle TODAY!!! Sounds awesome!