Thursday, September 8, 2011

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (continued)

I finished the book last night, and I still highly recommend it. (See my first blog on the book below.) I didn’t correctly figure out the whodunit, and I was surprised. The end felt a shade contrived to me, but on the whole it’s an excellent book. There are many literary decisions that were made by the author that I applaud. For example the way the author shifts the point of view as the book goes on is very interesting and contributes to the reader’s understanding of the growing sense of alienation caused by the disease. The book is divided into 4 sections, and I like that choice and the reasons for the separation.

The book is very dialogue-heavy, and I especially enjoyed the dialogue. This author writes good dialogue. There was an interesting ( and increasingly common in other books as well) choice made not to use quotation marks.  The main character speaks and makes observations in regular font, and the person or persons to whom she is speaking are in italics, and that is how the reader knows who’s talking. (There were also really big line breaks between lines of dialogue – almost as if they were trying to pad the books’ length!) I’ve seen other authors use this technique recenlty (Nicole Krauss comes to mind), and I wonder why this choice is made. Is it simply too difficult/annoying/time-consuming to type in all those quotation marks when you’re writing? (I have tried to write dialogue, and in fact it is annoying to keep typing the quotes!) Maybe this is another convention that is changing because of computers (like the now frowned-upon habit of putting two spaces after each period). 

But I digress... Read this book!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to school!

School started yesterday, both in the Rosemont graduate publishing program (where I work) and for my kids, so summer is officially over! Welcome back to the real world, y'all!

I’ve been staying up late the last few nights reading a great book. It’s called Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. I had read somewhere, I think in Publishers Weekly, that the book was getting good reviews, so I requested it from the library. I am grateful to the reviewers for pointing this book out because I am loving reading it!

The book tells the story of Dr. Jennifer White, a 64 year old woman descending in Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, it is told from her point of view. I think the author does this masterfully, giving us a sense of the confusion of time, the forgetting, the trying to make sense of the world, and the moments of lucidity when she knows what is happening and what she is in the process of losing. 

The crux of the plot is that Jenny’s dear friend Amanda, a slightly older woman and life-long friend who lives three houses down in the same Chicago neighborhood, has been found murdered. She was killed by a blow to the head and, strangely, someone has surgically removed four fingers from one of her hands. Since Jennifer White is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hands, she is the prime suspect. But how to pin a crime on a woman who can’t remember anything and who doesn't from day to day, even remember that Amanda is dead?

As we go through the book, we flash back and forward in Jenny’s life, learning stories and secrets about her husband, who died the year before the book opens, her two adult children, her complicated friendship with Amanda, and about Jennifer herself. As I read, I am of course wondering about the “whodunit” aspect of the book, but for me the more interesting part is the literary peek inside this woman’s mind, and the clever way the author presents memory, experience, and conversation. 

I’m about 50 pages from the end of this book and will be sorry to see it end. Kudos to the author!